“Need to Play Better”: Rafael Nadal Eyes Kei Nishikori Scalp After Nervy First Win at Barcelona Open 2021

Published 04/22/2021, 1:30 AM EDT
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Monte Carlo Masters – Monte-Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France – April 14, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action during his second round match against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis REUTERS/Eric Gaillard


It was just as well that Rafael Nadal flickered back to life when all seemed lost! The ‘King of Clay’ was in real danger of suffering back-to-back defeats on clay but rallied from a set down to tame tricky Belarussian Ilya Ivashka at Barcelona on Wednesday.

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Recovering from a 3-6 loss in the opening set, the Spaniard brought his vintage claycourt self to the fore to eventually progress to the fourth round. The final scoreline read 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in Nadal’s favor.

Rafael Nadal reveals he was worried after dropping the first set against Ilya Ivashka

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Sharing his thoughts on the game later, the current World No. 3 said that he was “worried” after falling behind in the early exchanges, but he held his focus and his persistence paid off in the end.

“I do not like to lie, I’m human, when you lose the first set and you are not playing well, of course I’m worried, but at the same time I’m focused on trying to change the dynamic of the match,” Nadal said.

Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Monte Carlo Masters – Monte-Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France – April 14, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action during his second round match against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

However, he added that as worried as he was after going down in the first set, he was determined to hit back and was expecting a reaction out of himself.

The 34-year-old said that he realized that he needed to crank his intensity and energy levels up to stay in the hunt after seeing the first set fall into his opponent’s kitty, and the change in approach brought him the right reward.

“More than worried, I was expecting a reaction from myself. Try to play with a different energy, try to play more aggressive,” the Spaniard said, adding that he started in a subdued manner and let his opponent get on top of him.

He added that a marked difference in his game after dropping the first set was that he tried to play more forehands and catch the Belarussian on his weak links.

Nadal says positive intent and aggressive tennis helped him change the dynamic of the match

The Spaniard said that his positive intent and aggressive play helped him wrest the momentum from his opponent and boss him thereafter. “I think I did it better later, even if it was not perfect, the dynamic of the match changed a lot and that’s why I’m here with the victory today,” Nadal said.

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The 11-time Barcelona champion will battle veteran Japanese star Kei Nishikori for a place in the fourth-round on Thursday. On his third-round clash, the Spaniard said, “It’s going to be a very tough third round. I need to play better than today…I am going to try to make that happen.”

Labeling Nishikori “another great player”, Nadal said he would look to raise his level by a fair few notches to get the right result.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

832 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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