The winner of 22 Majors, Rafael Nadal, will seek his first Paris Masters title next week. The Spaniard will be playing his first tournament after the US Open, battling an abdominal injury since Wimbledon in July and hoping for a hot run.
Nadal arrived in Paris early to prepare, hitting with Quentin Halys and David Goffin on Thursday. Rafa entered the center court this Friday for the first time in two years, practicing with the young American Sebastian Korda. The young gun has always referred to Rafa in superlatives, calling him his idol and the greatest player of all time.
Nadal and Korda met for the first time at Roland Garros 2020, and the Spaniard handed over a signed shirt to his rival after the match was over. Rafa beat Sebastian 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in one hour and 55 minutes, controlling the pace on a windy day to advance to the quarterfinals.
Nadal saved five of six break chances and produced eight breaks from 11 chances, never losing focus despite some weak moments in difficult conditions.
Rafael Nadal trained with Sebastian Korda in Paris.
Rafa saved two break points in the first game of the encounter and delivered breaks in games two and four to open a 5-0 gap after 28 minutes.
The American stayed in love in game six with a service winner to add his name to the scoreboard before the Spaniard closed out the set a few minutes later. Rafa produced three comfortable locks in set number two and stole Sebastian’s serve three times for 6-1 and another step towards the finish line.
The youngster grabbed a break early in the third set with a backhand winner and opened a 2-0 gap, feeling the ball in those moments and hoping to keep up that pace. Shifting into a higher gear, Rafa rattled off the next six games to run over the top, sealing the deal with a comeback winner at 5-2 to remain in the title field.
His second duel came at this year’s Indian Wells, and the youngster gave his idol a chance. Nadal prevailed 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 in two hours and 29 minutes, overcoming a huge deficit to avoid an early exit.
Korda served for the win twice in the final set, but failed to produce his best tennis when it mattered most. He made too many mistakes and allowed Nadal to seal the deal in the tiebreaker and move on. Rafa saved seven of 11 break chances and converted four of six break points.
The more experienced player overcame a challenging period in sets two and three to stay perfect in 2022. Nadal got off to an ideal start and claimed the first set before Korda raised his level to show off his arsenal in set number two.
The American claimed it 6-1 and forged a massive 5-2 lead in the decider. Serving twice to beat his idol, Sebastian began spraying errors and failed to create match points, allowing Rafa to level the score at 5-5. With a boost from his side, the Spaniard racked up five points in a row in the tiebreaker and produced another impressive one in the early part of the season.