ATP Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal hangs on for victory despite late collapses

Rafael Nadal faced some tricky moments in his opening round match at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters on Wednesday against Aljaz Bedene, but the Spaniard was strong on his return and held on for the 6-3, 6-3 victory. The eight-time Monte Carlo champion struggled late in both sets, but hung on for the victory

Former champion survives late collapse

Right from the off, Nadal was trying to push Bedene around the baseline, focusing his famous top spin forehand at Bedene two-handed backhand. The Brit did well to resist the Spaniards assault early on, but Nadal reached break point for the first time in the match in the fourth game. Bedene cracked, sending a backhand long to gift Nadal the early break. At 1-4, 0-40 down, the world number 60 double faulted to gift his opponent a double-break lead and a chance to serve for the set.

Aljaz Bedene hits one of his many backhands during his match with Nadal. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Aljaz Bedene hits one of his many backhands during his match with Nadal. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

However, Nadal seemed to tense up when serving for the set. A string of errors gave his opponent a pair of chances to reclaim on of the breaks. On the second, the fifth seed slice a backhand into the net to give Bedene his first break of the match. After the Brit held, Nadal tried once again to serve out the set. He struggled once again, having to save a break point before finally closing out the set with an ace.

Nadal rides return into third round

The opening set seemed to give Nadal momentum going into the second set, and he broke immediately for the early lead with a perfect forehand down the line. The eight-time champion seemed well on his way to victory with an early break, but Bedene would not go away quietly. The Brit brought up a break point in the fourth game, giving himself a chance to even the set. But Nadal was up to the task, saving it and holding for a 3-1 lead.

Nadal stretches for a volley in his second round match. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Nadal stretches for a volley in his second round match. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

The match appeared to be over when Bedene double faulted down break point at 2-4 to give Nadal a chance to serve out the match. However, almost in keeping with Nadal’s recent struggles and exactly like the first set, the Spaniard choked, falling behind 15-40 in that game and was broken to surrender the first break. But Nadal bounced back immediately, racing to a 0-40 lead in Bedene’s next game, and converted his second match point to wrap up the victory.

By the numbers

It was far from Nadal’s best serving performance. The Spaniard only managed 66 percent of his first serve points and 52 percent of his second serve points. He was broken twice, once in each set, while saving three break points. However, his return game was far stronger. The eight-time champion limited Bedene to 56 percent of his first serve points and 34 percent of his second serve points. The Spaniard broke five times out of seven opportunities. In total, Nadal won more than 50 percent of Bedene’s service points.

Nadal will face a stern test in the third round, as will now face Dominic Thiem. The Austrian young gun defeated Nadal in their most recent meeting, on clay in Buenos Aires back in February.

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