After nearly suffering an upset in the second round of the tournament, Rafael Nadal rebounded with a straightforward thrashing of his Israeli opposition Sela to advance to the final 16 in Melbourne. Next up for the Spaniard is a meeting against Kevin Anderson, whom he faced once previously in Toronto back in 2010. The Nadal vs Anderson head-to-head series stands at 1-0.
All eyes were on the world No. 3 as he stepped out on court for his night match. Given his surprisingly average performance several days prior, many wondered if Dudi Sela could produce similar results. Those thoughts were quickly put to rest, as Nadal stormed through the first two sets, and lost just one game in the process. The final set was far more competitive, but the end result remained the same. Nadal fired 43 winners, 4 aces and won 76% of his first service points to close out the match 6-1, 6-0, 7-5 in 2 hours and 4 minutes.
“Seriously I feel that I was in terms of legs I wake up in the morning better than what I thought. In terms of, you know, I was still a little bit dizzy yesterday. I think I lost lot of fluids the other night. But in general I was not very, very bad. Happy the way I was physically on court tonight. Obviously happy the way I played the first two sets.
“Then the third play with more mistakes, but all is part of the process that I am doing. It’s normal to play every day with a little bit more ups and downs when you are out for a while.”
The Spaniard will next play Kevin Anderson, who also needed straight sets to dispatch France’s Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(6) to reach the fourth round of the tournament. The South African struck 18 aces, 52 winners and won 84% of his first service points. If he can harness some of that aggression against Nadal, it could make for a very intriguing contest.
This is just the second time that Nadal and Anderson meet on the professional tour, with Nadal leading the head-to-head series 1-0. This will undoubtedly be the Spaniard’s toughest test this week in Melbourne and could make for another rollercoaster contest like the only played with Tim Smyzeck. While Nadal should get out of this match and into the quarter-finals, he may not have the easiest paths to that stage of the tournament.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Four Sets