ATP Cincinnati: Rafael Nadal cruises into third round
Rafael Nadal smacks a ball into the crowd after defeating Richard Gasquet on Wednesday in Cincinnati. Photo: Noel Alberto

Top seed Rafael Nadal avoided the mass-exodus of top-ranked players at the Western and Southern Open on Wednesday night, cruising past Richard Gasquet to book his place in the third round. After a slow start, the Spaniard started to find his form as the match progressed, eventually grinding his former-top-ten opponent off the court with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Nadal overcomes slow start

Despite starting their warm-up on time, the match started nearly an hour late as rain forced the men to retreat to the dressing room not long after arriving. Neither man was playing great tennis in the opening stages of the match. In his first service game, Gasquet double faulted at 30-30 to give Nadal a break point. The Frenchman was up to the task in this game, saving the break point with a big serve before Nadal netted a backhand on his second chance at 40-AD. An error-filled game from Nadal gave Gasquet a break point, but the Spaniard saved it with a massive backhand. The first three games of the match required deuces.

Richard Gasquet prepares to serve. Photo: Noel Alberto
Richard Gasquet prepares to serve. Photo: Noel Alberto

Nadal would then go back on offence, racing ahead 15-40 on the Frenchman’s serve and this time, Gasquet cracked, double faulting the break away. Consolidating the break was slightly challenging, as back-to-back unforced errors put Nadal in a 0-30 hole, but the soon-to-be world number one roared back to win four straight points. An opportunity for a double break came in the sixth game, as a double fault put Gasquet down 15-40. He was able to battle back and hold, but the Frenchman had no answer to the Nadal serve, as he held in the following game, closing out the set with an ace.

Top seed powers through

It would not take long for Nadal to seize control of the second set. A sloppy game from Gasquet at 1-1 put the Spaniard up 0-40. The Frenchman would net a backhand to give away the love break and the early lead. Nadal was now fully in form as he refused to let Gasquet back into the match. The closest the Frenchman would come was in the eighth game when he pushed the Spaniard to deuce, but could not bring up a break point.

Nadal awaits a serve during his second-round win. Photo: Noel Alberto
Nadal awaits a serve during his second-round win. Photo: Noel Alberto

In the following game at 3-5, Gasquet sent a volley long to give Nadal break/match point, but the Frenchman kept himself alive with a big serve. He was only delaying the inevitable as Nadal had not trouble closing out the match. Serving for it at 5-4, the Spaniard struck three aces, holding to love to book his place in the third round just before 11:00 pm.

By the numbers

Nadal nearly doubled Gasquet in the winners department, striking 25 to the Spaniard’s 13. He also only had 19 unforced errors to Gasquet’s 26, although 13 of the Spaniard’s unforced error were on his stronger forehand wing. The Spaniard also had eight aces to his opponent’s four. Overall, Nadal won 86 percent of his first serve points while, as he often does, pummeled his opponent’s second serve, winning 64 percent of Gasquet’s second serves.

Nadal will play Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the third round.