world no. 2 Rafael Nadal has yet to win a match this season. Rafa is 0-2 in the United Cup following a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 loss to Alex de Minaur in Sydney. Thus, Nadal has lost the first two matches of the season for the first time in his career, having to level himself up ahead of the Australian Open title defense.
Rafa recovered the break in the decider before playing a terrible service game at 5-5 that cost him dearly. Nadal lost serve midway through the first set before ending four straight games 6-3 in 46 minutes. Rafa held after deuce in the first game of the match with a great winner, and they remained side by side until 2-2.
Rafa made a forehand error in the fifth game to drop serve and fall behind. Alex squandered a game point in the next and lost serve after a forced volley error. Nadal gained momentum, stayed in love in game seven and took another 40-0 break to carve out a 5-3 lead after the opponent’s wayward forehand.
Alex de Minaur beat Rafael Nadal in Sydney.
Rafa fired a backhand cross winner while serving for the set in game nine and converted it to move in front. The second set saw just seven games and still lasted over 50 minutes after numerous deuces.
De Minaur took charge with three straight 6-1 breaks and a great drive ahead of the decider. Rafa got off to a better start and delivered his third straight break for a 6-3, 1-0 lead. The Spaniard was unable to bring the second game home, and the Australian converted the fourth break chance with a backhand winner to make it 1-1.
Nadal struggled behind the opening shot again in the fourth game, unable to find free points and impose his shots. Alex grabbed the fourth break point with a backhand winner that put him ahead 3-1. De Minaur forced Nadal’s error in the fifth game to save a break point and closed the match with a game-winning volley for 4-1.
Losing his rhythm, Nadal lost serve again in game six after a wild forehand, allowing his opponent to serve for the set. The Australian fell 40-0 in the seventh game before converting second set point after forcing Nadal’s error, slotting in a decider after one hour and 41 minutes.
Rafa got off to a better start in the final set, serving well and creating break chances in the second game. De Minaur denied four and closed the match after a loose forehand from Nadal for a vital hold. Alex delivered a break at 15 in the fifth game after Rafa’s routine backhand error and took a big step towards the finish line.
However, Nadal fired a forehand cross winner in the sixth game to win back the break and extend the battle. The Spaniard held the love in the ninth game for 5-4, leaving his rival with the service to stay in the match. Alex kept his cool and brought the game home at 30 for 5-5 and more drama.
Nadal played a terrible service game and was broken at love in game 11 after a forehand error, pushing the opponent 6-5 in front. De Minaur fell to a service winner in game 12 to oust Nadal and deliver a victory for his country in his hometown.