Rafael Nadal Fights Back From a Set Down to Fend Off Ilya Ivashka Challenge at Barcelona Open 2021

Published 04/21/2021, 12:37 PM EDT
PARIS, FRANCE – OCTOBER 11: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning a point during his Men’s Singles Final against Novak Djokovic of Serbia on day fifteen of the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros on October 11, 2020 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)


11-time champion in Barcelona, Rafael Nadal survived a scare against Ilya Ivashka in the second round of Barcelona Open 2021. Winning in three sets, he lost a set in his first match in Barcelona for just the second time in his career. Nadal kept his streak of zero first-round match losses in Barcelona.

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Nadal was broken in his first service game of the match. And his Achilles heel was again the backhand. Three errors from his backhand side saw Ivashka take the initial lead in the match. Nadal threatened Ivashka’s backhand too, but couldn’t capitalize as Ivashka took a 3-1 lead in the opening set.

A shock first set from Rafael Nadal

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Ivashka was returning the serve much better than Nadal. Overall, both the players were having long service holds, but Nadal couldn’t limit the mistakes and Ivashka was in control. It looked like Nadal had carried forward his backhand issues from his loss against Andrey Rublev at Monte Carlo Masters. Ivashka was comfortably ahead, 5-3.

Rafael Nadal wearing a mask before his second-round match against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

As Nadal served to stay in the set, he hit a few second serves, which Ivashka almost capitalized on. A disciplined game from Ivashka gave him an unlikely first-set victory.

Rafael Nadal’s comeback set

To kick off his comeback, Nadal broke Ivashka in the first game of the second set. As Nadal started asserting his authority on the match, Ivashka was forced to go a bit defensive. Even though he tried to get aggressive, Ivashka committed mistakes thanks to Nadal’s defensive prowess. Nadal quickly took a 3-1 lead in the second set.

From 2-1, Nadal won three games in a row to stretch his lead to 5-1. As the tide started turning towards Nadal, Ivashka was heavily pressurized. The Belarusian tried finishing the rallies quickly but in turn, gave points to Nadal. Ivashka’s forehand was neutralized as Rafa won the second set 6-2.

Rafael Nadal takes a close third set

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Resetting himself, Ivashka started off brilliantly by getting a love-hold in his first service game of the final set. As the third set went on, it looked like Ivashka would crack soon, but that didn’t happen. Ivashka was again offensive and troubled Nadal but the Spaniard also used every ounce of experience he had to tackle Ivashka.

Nadal then started deploying more slices and drop shots to vary his style. His acclaimed heavy topspin forehand was becoming unplayable as the final set was evenly poised at 3-3. But Nadal triumphed in the precarious situation as he took a 5-3 lead. Ivashka saved a match point on his serve to urge Nadal to serve for the match. The Spaniard completed the comeback and commenced his march towards a 12th title– 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

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Bhavishya Mittal

958 articles

Bhavishya Mittal is a tennis author for EssentiallySports, who is currently pursuing his Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Manipal University. A former sports editor for The Manipal Journal, Bhavishya has also worked for The New Indian Express. He has a keen eye for many sports but he is a particularly ardent follower of tennis, with a zest to create riveting articles on the ever-evolving sport.

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