Against Belgium’s David Goffin, the world No.1 Rafael Nadal not only lost his first set of the 2020 ATP season, but also lost his first match of this year as he succumbed to a straight sets 4-6, 6-7(3) loss in his team’s quarter-final tie against Belgium in the inaugural ATP Cup.
However, since the ATP Cup is a team event, the 33-year old Spaniard received another shot to make amends and he did exactly as was expected of him. Following his humbling defeat in singles to Goffin, pairing alongside Pablo Carenno Busta, Nadal helped Team Spain secure the semi-final berth as the duo edged past the resurgent Belgians Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen 6-7, 7-5, (10-7) in their deciding doubles contest. While Roberto Bautista Agut gained a crucial point for Team Spain following his dominant 6-1, 6-4 win over Kimmer Coppejans, Goffin upsetting Nadal in their clash meant that it was a do-or-die situation for the 2019 Davis Cup champions and raising their game just in time, Nadal and Carreno Busta helped their team cross the finishing line and now will take on the hosts Team Australia in their upcoming semi-final clash at Sydney.
In the semi-final tie, even though Bautista Agut will take on the dangerman Nick Kyrgios, the onus would be once again on Rafael Nadal to win his upcoming match against the young and exuberant Alex de Minaur at any costs.
On the ATP tour, after recording comprehensive, straight-sets wins at the Australian Open 2019 and the Wimbledon 2018, Nadal leads De Minaur 2-0 and starts as heavy favourite against the young Australian in their upcoming contest. While the 33-year old Spaniard tasted his first defeat in the singles at the ongoing ATP Cup, De Minaur is unbeaten so far in the inaugural edition of the event.
Especially in his last two contests, Nadal’s serve has let him down and will look forward for a much-improved performance in this regard as he takes on de Minaur in an all-important semi-final tie. With the Australian Open right around the corner, the World No.1 cannot afford any lapses in concentration against the 20-year old Australian.
On the other hand, with the morale-boosting wins over Denis Shapovalov and Alexander Zverev in the round-robin contests, de Minaur has been on a role himself and would fancy upsetting one of the most decorated players of the tournament, especially after Nadal found himself at the losing end against Goffin.
With a potential final clash against Novak Djokovic on the cards, the 33-year old Spaniard would aim to return to his dominant best as he targets consistency against the Aussie in pursuit of getting all his bases covered.
Can de Minaur follow in Goffin’s footsteps to stun the World No.1 to enhance Team Australia’s chances of making it to the final or will Nadal, returning to his winning ways, cruise to a comprehensive victory over the in-form Australian?
An action-packed semi-final Saturday awaits us at the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.