ATP Miami: Rafael Nadal overcomes nightmare start for historic victory

ATP Miami: Rafael Nadal overcomes nightmare start for historic victory

In his 1000th career match, Rafael Nadal had to fight back after dropping the opening set 6-0 at the Miami Open, eventually battling back for a three-set win to reach the fourth round over Philipp Kohlschreiber.

pete-borkowski
Pete Borkowski

Rafael Nadal’s 1000th career match did not get off to the start the Spaniard wanted. In fact, it was the worst possible start for the legendary Spaniard as he was bageled in the opening set of his third round match at the Miami Open. But the Nadal showed the heart that has made him a legend, battling back to reach the fourth round in Miami with a 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Fast start from Kohlschreiber

Coming into the match, Nadal had only ever lost once to Kohlschreiber in 14 meetings, but the German seemed bent on reversing the trend early in the Miami clash. Kohlschreiber came flying out of the great, teeing off on Nadal’s serving in the opening game and was rewarded with an immediate break. It appeared that the German’s advantage wouldn’t last when he fell behind 15-40, but Kohlschreiber’s big hitting came to the rescue, as he saved both break points and held for a 2-0 lead.

Philipp Kohlschreiber hits a forehand during his third round loss. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Philipp Kohlschreiber hits a forehand during his third round loss. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Nadal was struggling to control the ball and had no answer to the German’s power, as he failed to close out a game and was broken for a second time. Kohlschreiber was rolling and after holding for a 4-0 lead, he continued his assault on the Spaniard’s serve. Once again, the German blasted to break point and Nadal was unable to save it, surrendering serve for a third time. Kohlschreiber put an exclamation point on his perfect start by racing ahead 40-0 as he served for the opener, converting his second set point to wrap up the bagel in only 26 minutes.

Nadal bounces back

With the momentum firmly in Kohlschreiber’s corner, a different Nadal came out to start the second set. Suddenly, the Spaniard seemed to have regained control of his groundstrokes and opened up the set with his first hold of the match. The strong serving that had carried him in his opening match also returned, as Nadal only lost two points in his first three service games. In the fourth game, he had a chance to break, but Kohlschreiber’s own service levels were still high and the German saved it.

Nadal rips a backhand on his way to his epic comeback. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Nadal rips a backhand on his way to his epic comeback. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Finally, in the sixth game of the set, Kohlschreiber blinked. Nadal finally managed a break to take a 4-2 lead and completely seized the momentum. After another hold to love, the Spaniard ripped through another Kohlschreiber service game at 5-2, taking a double break/set point and advantage and converted the second to level the match. The fifth seed only lost two points on serve in the second set after losing more than half of his service points in the opener.

Perfect Spaniard claims victory

By the third set, Nadal was playing his highest level of tennis while Kohlschreiber seemed to be running out of gas. After opening up the set with another strong hold, the fifth seed kept up his onslaught. He battled to deuce on the German’s serve, bringing up a break point at 40-AD. Kohlschreiber would save it, but a second soon followed and this time, Nadal would not be denied, taking an early 2-0 lead. A hold to love extended the lead to 3-0 and the Spaniard’s run to seven games in a row.

Nadal celebrates his comeback victory. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Nadal celebrates his comeback victory. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

The one break would be enough for Nadal, as he shut the match down on serve. After breaking for the lead, the Spaniard did not surrender another point on serve. While Kohlschreiber easily held on to his own serve, he was given nothing to work with on return as Nadal cruised to the finish line, closing out the match with four straight holds to love and 18 consecutive points on serve.

By the numbers

After a disastrous opening set, Nadal threw down one of the greatest serving performances out of his 1000 career matches over the final two sets. The Spaniard only lost three points on serve in the second and third sets, 33 out of 36. He never allowed Kohlschreiber past 15 in a single game after being broken for the third time in the opening set. After being below 50 percent on both first and second serve points won in the opening set, Nadal would rally to finish the match at 77 percent of first serve points won and 58 percent of second serves, while attacking Kohlschreiber’s second serve, winning 57 percent of those points.

Nadal, who is bidding for his first title in Miami after finishing as the runner-up four times, will play Nicolas Mahut for a spot in the quarterfinals. 

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