Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Rafa finds it tough with Nishikori

Rafa Nadal had Kei Nishikori with whom to deal in his fourth round match on Rod Laver Arena.  Never had Nishikori beaten the world number one in five previous attempts, and he would be achieving something special if he pushed Rafa in this contest.
The start was anything but auspicious for Nishikori as he messed up four groundstrokes to drop serve immediately without any real participation from Nadal.
Two aces first up for Nadal showed us where he was right now, and he led 2-0

Nishikori settled in the third and fourth games, holding serve well with big groundstrokes, and then threatening the Nadal serve. A backhand winner took it to deuce before two sloppy errors from Rafa put the match back on an even keel.
After Nishikori held serve and took the lead 3-2, both players wasted break points in the next two games, Nadal the more guilty, having three of them float by without a conversion.  Most unlike the top seed who trailed 3-4.

The route to a tie break was then pretty much plain travelling with competent serving and blistering groundstrokes from both contestants in a very even affair.

From 2-2 in the tie break Nadal won four successive points due in part to the forehand failure of Nishikori.  The set was never going anywhere but Spain after that and with 7 points to 3 Rafa had taken a one set lead 7-6.

Set two began in the same manner with both players strong from the baseline and defending their serves proudly until the fifth game.  Nadal was the first to suffer the break, thanks to a winning Japanese forehand, twice leaving Nadal without an answer.
The next two games went to serve before Rafa decided to return to the second set contest with a break of the Nishikori serve.  Rafa took advantage of a double fault and forehand error from the 16th seed and produced an excellent forehand himself to achieve the break.
At 5-6 Nishikori again suffered at the hands of a more confident Rafa who jumped all over the serve of the 16th seed avoiding the need for a tiebreak this time, and allowing the number one seed to serve first in the third set.  Rafa 7-5.

When Nadal broke the Nishikori serve to leave the Japanese player with blistered feet and 1-3 down, the match seemed all but gone.  Rafa survived break points to make it 4-1 and closer to the finish.
Four straight games later, Nishikori was serving for the set.  His comeback against the top seed was fantastic to watch because it was more to do with his inspired play than with a marked drop off in standard from Rafa.
At 30-15 three forehand errors from Nishikori snuffed out the immediate plans for a set win.  5-5
A tie break again was required and Nadal played it far too well, with a couple of aces as icing on the cake.  Seven points to three
Rafa Nadal in the quarter finals winning the tightest of three setters 7-6 7-5 7-6

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