Paris Masters: Rafael Nadal Saves Match Point To Avoid Upset Against Kevin Anderson

Rafael Nadal needed to go the distance as he defeated Kevin Anderson 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-2. The win for Nadal sent him into the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Masters Paris and sent Anderson packing for the season as the South African will miss out on an alternate spot at the World Tour Finals. The Spaniard saved match point in the second tiebreak before running away in the third to take the match.

Early Break For Anderson Gives Him The Set

The South African, who is known for his big serving, nearly fell in a hole to start the match as he was forced to save a couple of break points. Despite that, he took advantage of some soft serves from Nadal to break at 30 with a fantastic forehand which painted the corner as the Spaniard could not get it back.

Both players began to dominate their serves, and it began with a hold at love for Anderson to consolidate the break with a backhand winner down the line. Neither man won two points on the opposition’s serve for the remainder of the set with Anderson closing out the set with impeccable serving.

Impeccable Serving Before The Tiebreak

The break in the first set gave Nadal new life on the serve in a sense as he began to dominate with it. His service games were filed with well-placed shots and serves to the Anderson backhand which the South African could not deal with. Anderson’s service games were overpowering Nadal, something that the tennis world has been accustomed to over the last few years.

With such dominant service games, there wasn’t much tension going on until Nadal found a mini-opening at 15-30 up 4-3. That lead lasted all of a few seconds though with Anderson crushing a cross-court backhand winner to get even the game score at 30-30 before holding after one deuce.

Gritty Nadal Saves Match Point

The Spanish number one would deliver the first “blow” of the tiebreak with a mini-break lead thanks to a double fault from the South African. That lead was short lived though thanks to a forehand error from the Spaniard. The world number 12 saw a defensive return from Nadal in the middle of the breaker but failed to move up on it to gift the mini-break back to the Spaniard. This tiebreak felt like a little early Christmas for the two because they continued to gift each other points. This time it was Nadal who gifted a point as he shockingly missed a forehand which was sitting up for him to punish.

Anderson made the most of the Nadal miss with two stellar serves, one where the return went long and the other with a great angle out wide, to set up match point. Nadal is known to never give up and that he did as he came up with a timely cross-court forehand that was right in the corner for six apiece. Anderson gave Nadal a “get-out-of-jail” card at 6-all when the South African drilled Nadal’s sitting half-volley right at him to volley into the open court despite having the whole line to work with to give the 14-time Grand Slam champion set point.

The Parisian crowd went wild when Anderson netted a forehand as their wish for more tennis was granted. This match had a bit of a different feel than the French Open, but either way, the crowd was pulling for the man who has dominated their city for so long.

Anderson’s Spirits Broken With Opening Break And Failing To Convert Six Break Points

Tennis is a sport where short-term memory is the best memory. Anderson needed to find the reset button and hit it quick before things got out of hand. A break at 30 for Nadal was not the remedy needed and a love hold for the Spaniard to follow that did not make the South African feel better at all.

Anderson’s best chance to break came in the fourth game after two Nadal double faults gave him two break chances. At this point, Nadal’s serve had shades of his shocking upset losses written all over it as his serve all of a sudden let him down in the crucial moments. However, tentativeness did Anderson in as he failed to convert either of those but saw four more come his way. Nadal’s stellar shotmaking plus unforced errors from the world number 12 made all six break points disappear as Nadal left unscathed in the 17 point, near 15 minute game.

Anderson kept himself in the match until Nadal broke for a second time in the set on his second opportunity in the game. A missed forehand return saved the first one, but a backhand winner cross-court set up the second chance.

Nadal was all over a short forehand that Anderson hit on the back foot and jammed as he moved to a double break 5-2 lead. The Spaniard fired a perfect final service game with a love hold and closed the match with an ace and a swinging forehand winner as he completed his comeback. The Spaniard will now meet Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals as the Swiss number two looks to exact revenge on Nadal after the drubbing he received in Shanghai.