Regardless of what else happens at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships, Rafael Nadal will still be number one in the world when the tournament ends. By winning his third-round match with Aussie teen Alex de Minaur, the Spaniard successfully defend his points from 2017 meaning he will hang on to his top spot for another few weeks.
The result never really looked in doubt for the world number one, as Nadal seized control early and did not give his young opponent a chance to get back into the match. Just by reaching the third round, the 19-year-old de Minaur had already achieved the best appearance at a major of his young career. He fought well but was simply outmatched on Centre Court by the world number one, who claimed the victory 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
Quick start for Nadal
Right from the very first point, Nadal was pushing the 19-year-old around the court. In the fourth game on de Minaur’s serve, the Spaniard battled to deuce before setting up a break point by drawing an error. Nadal would miss a backhand to go back to deuce.
An epic game ensued that lasted eleven minutes and saw six deuces. Nadal had four break points, none of which he converted, before de Minaur had a chance to hold. The second seed would use his slick net game to save that game point before setting up a fifth break point, where he drew an error to grab the early break.
De Minaur did not seem discouraged after dropping the break. In the very next game, he took a love-30 lead on Nadal’s serve, only for the two-time Wimbledon champion to win four straight points and hold. That missed opening seemed to hurt as the teen double-faulted to go down love-40 on his own serve in the next game. He sent his backhand into the net to hand Nadal a 5-1 lead. The Spaniard served out the set in the following game.
De Minaur can’t keep up
The second set started out on much more even footing, with the first four games all being held at love. Nadal finally broke the trend in the fifth game when he battled to 30-all on de Minaur’s serve. The Aussie netted a backhand to give his opponent a break point, but in a rare lapse combined with a fluke bounce, Nadal simply swung and missed his forehand to send to send the game to deuce. Still, de Minaur sent a forehand long to give the world number one a second chance and this time fired a backhand long to surrender the break.
Nadal would consolidate to love and then returned to work on return. Another double fault at love-30 from de Minaur gave the second seed triple break point. The Aussie sent a forehand into the net on the second to go down 5-2. In the next game at 0-15, in one of the rallies of the tournament, de Minaur seemingly did everything right to stay alive when he caught Nadal at the net and seemed to hit a perfect lob, only for Nadal to chase it down and hit a perfect tweener lob to force de Minaur back. The teen attempted his own tweener but missed.
The Aussie kept pressing and was rewarded with a break point at 30-40 when Nadal netted a backhand, but the Spaniard made up for it by perfectly placing a forehand in the back corner to save the break point. He then pushed a forehand wide to give de Minaur a second break point, but the teen missed his return. The world number one would hold to take the set 6-2.
Nadal hangs on for huge win
With nothing really to lose, de Minaur continued to fight despite the massive uphill battle he was facing. The Aussie got off to a strong start, taking a love-30 lead in Nadal’s first service game, but again the world number one won four straight points to hold.
Just like the second set, the 2-all game proved decisive. De Minaur double-faulted to give Nadal a break point, but the Spaniard missed a forehand. A second chance soon followed, and this time Nadal smacked a forehand winner to grab the break.
Serving for the match proved a bit troublesome for the world number one. Nadal failed to convert his first match point when the Aussie hit a beautiful running forehand passing shot and then found himself facing a break point after de Minaur punched a backhand passing shot up the line for a winner. Nadal’s effective volleying would bail him out as he saved the break point and on his second match point, he punched a reflex volley into the open court to book his spot in the fourth round and consolidate his number one ranking.
By the numbers
De Minaur won the ace race eight to five, but that was where his statistical advantages ended. He countered out many of his aces with five double faults and only won 56 percent of his total service points (60 percent of his first serves, 50 percent of his seconds). He faced twelve break points in the match only saving seven and being broken five times.
Both men struggled a bit with their first serve, with Nadal only putting 58 percent of them into play and de Minaur only managing 56 percent. The Spaniard was still effective, saving all three break points he faced. The two-time Wimbledon champion’s net game continues to be subtly dominant. In this match, he moved in 22 times, winning 19 of those points.
Nadal is through to the round of sixteen for the second year in a row, the first time he has managed that since 2011. The Spaniard has only reached the fourth round at Wimbledon three times since 2011.
The two-time champion will look to reach the quarterfinals at the All-England Club for the first time since 2011 when he takes on world number 93 Jiri Vesely in the fourth round.