Rafa Nadal flirted with a loss in Barcelona that would have been historic. In his entire career he has only lost once on clay to a player outside the ‘top 100’. And it was 17 years ago, in Palermo, when he was number 49 in the world and he fell against Oliver Mutis. Ilya Ivashka, number 111 in the world rankings, put that mark in jeopardy this Wednesday at the Conde de Godó, forcing Nadal to come back a set to qualify for the round of 16 (3-6, 6-2 and 6-4) .
Nothing presaged that the Belarusian was going to give Nadal problems in one of his fetish tracks and that even bears his name, but the greater pace achieved by having passed the previous phase, together with the doubts of the Spanish, dismounted too early for his habit from Monte Carlo, they set off the alarms. First it was an early break in favor of Ivashka and then an advantage that was growing and ended with the player from the east with the first set in his pocket.
Call of attention for the Balearic, uncomfortable in Barcelona with the sun hidden and cold on the track. It was difficult for the Belarusian to maintain the level, but just the fact that they had won a set was a sign of danger. Only five tennis players in the history of Godó had led him to a third set. The first, Álex Corretja, in 2003; the last Leo Mayer, two years ago. For Ivashka it was also unfamiliar territory. He had lost all the games against a ‘top ten’ (0-4), he had only won four against ‘top 50’ (4-20) and 27 against ‘top 100’ (27-44). The situation surpassed him and Nadal took the opportunity to equalize the contest in a second set that was defined in more than half an hour and 6-1 in favor of the manacorense.
But it wasn’t an easy ride from there for Nadal. In the third set he did not face break balls, but Ivashka maintained his level of attack – he connected 24 game-winning shots – and precision until he went 3-3. Four consecutive failures buried his options and triggered the Spaniard to take four of the last five games of the match.
Before a track with about 1,000 spectators, the maximum that Barcelona allows due to the pandemic, Nadal closed the pass to the second round with many shadows, but with the light of being alive in a tournament that he has won eleven times. This Thursday the Japanese Kei Nishikori awaits you.
In the rest of the tournament, the highlight was the disqualification of Fabio Fognini in his match against the Spanish Bernabé Zapata. The Italian became the 10th tennis player to be disqualified since 2000 for insulting a linesman. Bernabé Zapata, who led the score 6-0 and 4-4 when the disqualification occurred, will face Pablo Carreño in the second round, who beat Jordan Thompson 6-4 and 6-0. Albert Ramos, who was able to beat Adrian Mannarino by a double 6-4, and Roberto Bautista, who beat Pablo Andújar by 6-4, 6-0, also agreed to the next round. The one who fell was Jaume Munar, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0 and 6-2.
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