Even if one is called Rafael Nadal, it is not easy to lift your spirits and the Spaniard had just had a roll in Monte Carlo last week. He left there with some doubts and dragged them to the Godó arena, where this Wednesday he solved a tricky debut against a player who in other circumstances surely would not have tickled him. Ilya Ivashka painted a snack, a good way to open his mouth, but in the end it resulted in a rough start that began with fright, continued with friction and ended in the form of a happy ending: 3-6, 6-2 and 6- 4 in 2h 19m. In this way, Nadal will now face (16.00, Tdp) a clash with Kei Nishikori (7-6 (5), 4-6 and 6-1 against Cristian Garín).
From the beginning, Nadal was not seen as comfortable on the track in Barcelona. Overcast sky, humidity in the environment and a heavy ball that it cost him to tame. The afternoon began between chloroform, and Ivashka took advantage of it wonderfully to find himself in an unexpected situation for him. From the outset, he snatched the service from the champion of 20 grand and grew until he played face to face, feeling strong in the exchanges and winning the longest rallies. With flat and powerful blows, he inoculated doubts in the mind of the Spaniard, who lacked sharpness and precision throughout the first round.
As already happened in the farewell to Monte Carlo against Andrey Rublev, the Mallorcan faltered with the backhand. Although his true thermometer is the drive, the offensive reverse has long been a capital tool for him, aware that if he is not fine with that blow, he may lose the initiative and, therefore, the governance of the parties. This happened against the Russian in the Principality and it happened again against Ivashka (27 years, 111th in the world) in the coming-out in this Godó. Too short a ball, wings for the Belarusian and three-quarters of an hour of confusion, because Nadal was twisting his face.
The Spaniard did not make the only break option he had in that first set and delivered it with a backhand to the hall, equally smeared to the service (49% effectiveness, two double faults). However, it was amended in the continuation and shot the percentages (68%) as it gained bellows and distributed towards the angles with greater precision. To which he put one more gear and found clarity, Ivashka’s game lost its order. The strategic curve of the duel was reversed. More active in his legs, Nadal let go, deepened with his right and scratched two breaks to balance the score. There was litigation, in any case.
His rival, much more rolled – he came with three games of the previous one on the odometer -, was not impressed and replied decisively. Based on consistency. A downturn was expected that did not come, and the result was a beautiful afternoon of tennis. The sun came and went, Ivashka kept looking into his eyes and held on until his crosshairs were twisted in the seventh game of resolution. There, Nadal imposed his law. Power, legs, punch. He curled the ball from the bottom and broke his serve; he threw himself on top of him and in the critical stretch of the game he offered his best version. I celebrate it effusively. Thus he dodged a premiere in which a brave opponent, praiseworthy attitude, demanded from the first to the last ball. Clapping, then, for both of us.
“Today he has not played at the level indicated by his ranking“Nadal commented to TVE. “When you do some things wrong [en referencia a Montecarlo], you have a few days of doubts. I would be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t worried when I lost the first set, ”he snapped in the conference room. “The positive is that the game has gone from less to more. I have competed very little this year and it was important to save this match. I hope to play better tomorrow [por este jueves], but in any case, the reading is positive ”, added the Manacor, who did not lose a set on the ground against a tennis player outside the top-100 since 2013; then, before Martín Alund (111º), in São Paulo.