Going into his fourth round clash with Nikoloz Basilashvili, Rafael Nadal is just two wins away from retaining his World No.1 ranking. He plays an opponent who is in the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time in his career and had never won a main draw match in New York before this year.
Basilashvili has played well in taking advantage of the draw and in particular – Kyle Edmund’s early exit. He toughed out a five set win over Aljaz Bedene in round one before winning in four against Jack Sock and Guido Pella to get this far. The win over Sock was the sixth top 20 win in his career although it has to be said the American’s level is barely at that of a top 120 player right now.
Nadal was almost on his way out in round three, needing four sets to defeat Karen Khachanov. He had to come back from a set and break down to win with the match swinging after Khachanov failed to serve out the second set when up 5-4. There was a moment in the fourth where things could have got messy had he failed to hold when serving for a tiebreak but he kept his nerve and went on to easily take the tiebreak. “It was a physical, demanding match. It was a mentally demanding match. That’s why we practice every day, to play these kind of matches in a great atmosphere in front of an amazing crowd.” he said afterwards.
Check out the Nadal forehand technique
“I think this match helps. Win these kind of matches going through some very tough situations, lot of moments on the match, helps a lot for the confidence, and helps to understand how you have to play for next match.” Nadal added. It would be a major shock were Basilashvili to advance here or even win a set despite Nadal’s struggles in the previous round. A potential finals rematch is on the cards in the quarter finals with Kevin Anderson or Dominic Thiem taking on the winner.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets