Rafael Nadal will face off against an Aussie for the second round running on Friday. He plays the rising youngster Alex de Minaur for a spot in round three. The 19 year-old is the next big hope in Australia with the likes of Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios continuing to fail to live up to their potential to varying degrees. He is one of three home players to still be in the tournament although both Alexei Popyrin and Alex Bolt are expected to lose their second round matchups on Day 4. Check out the Nadal vs De Minaur stats.
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Nadal had another fairly straight forward workout in his second round matchup. He steamrolled Matthew Ebden following a shaky start, closing out the match 6-3 6-2 6-2 in just under two hours. “I think I played a solid match, I’m happy with the way my serve worked, and I think I did a few things very well – serve and first shot have been very, very positive, hitting a lot of winners with my forehand. And with my return, I think I’ve been improving during the match.” a delighted Nadal said.
de Minaur was a success on the junior tour, making it to No.2 with a Wimbledon final on his record. 2018 was a major success for him as he moved from outside the top 200 to top 35 by the end of the year. He used the Challenger Tour to his benefit in the early part of the year before establishing himself as a decent player on the main tour, picking up back to back slam third rounds at Wimbledon and the US Open. He makes it three in a row this week but will be disappointed to have made such hard work of Henri Laaksonen, needing 5 sets to advance despite leading 2-0 in sets.
de Minaur comes into the match with a seven match winning streak, which includes a title in Sydney. The Australian is definitely a live danger and could trouble Nadal with him improving at a rapid rate. “To be able to get all these wins under my belt definitely helps a lot, to build just that momentum and keep playing some good tennis day in, day out. Obviously against Rafa that’s going to be something special.” he said. They met at Wimbledon at this stage too with Nadal winning a comfortable one in straight sets. It shouldn’t be so easy this time round but experience and class still may tell for this year at least.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in four sets