Rafael Nadal got his bid for an historic title in Madrid underway on Tuesday with a strong victory over Andrey Kuznetsov in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open. The King of Clay, who is bidding for a 50th clay court title and 29th Masters 1000 title, both records, this week defeated his Russian opponent 6-3, 6-3 to stretch his current winning streak to 11 matches.
Early break gives Nadal opening set
It would not take long for the four-time Madrid champion to establish his dominance in the match, reaching break point in Kuznetsov’s first service game. The Russian would gift Nadal the break with an unforced error and the Spaniard led 2-0. A dominant hold followed and Nadal was out to an immediate 3-0 lead. The Spaniard nearly cracked the set wide open in the following game when he brought up two break points, but Kuznetsov saved both and finally got on the board, holding for 1-3.
Despite holding, Kuznetsov struggled to find a way into Nadal’s service games. The Russian had to answer to the Spaniard’s serve and did not even win a point on his opponent’s serve until Nadal’s fourth service game, amounting to 13 straight points won on serve by Nadal to start the match. Even though he was pushed to deuce in all but one of his service games, Kuznetsov managed to prevent Nadal from grabbing anther break. But it was not enough as he would only win two points on his opponents serve all set, and Nadal cruised through the opener 6-3.
Nadal finishes strong for victory
Kuznetsov managed to hold to start the set, but he was soon in trouble again as, after a Nadal hold to love, the Russian went down break point in the third game. Despite a bad call for the umpire, he would save it and another at 40-AD before holding. It only took two games for Kuznetsov to get some points on the Nadal serve in the second set, pushing Nadal to 30-30 for the first time in the match in the fourth game before the Spaniard held.
From 3-2 in the Russian’s favour, Nadal took complete control on the match. After holding to love, the Spaniard went up double break point in the next game courtesy of a brutal overhead miss by Kuznetsov. The Russian saved the first break point, but the net cord went against him on the second and Nadal had the break lead. After another routine hold, the four-time champion released a lethal string of forehands to break again to seal the victory.
By the numbers
Nadal was utterly dominant on serve in this match, getting 80 percent of his first serves in, winning 84 percent of those points, and was a perfect eight for eight on second serve points. Overall, he only lost five points on serve in the entire match and did not face a single break point. Kuznetsov was nowhere near as strong, only putting 54 percent of his first serves in play, winning 67 percent of those points, while he only managed to win 46 percent of his second serve points. The King of Clay was at his grinding baseline best in this match, doubling Kuznetsov in winners 22 to 11, while only hitting a mere nine unforced errors.