CINCINNATI -- Rafael Nadal survived yet another tough test from countryman Fernando Verdasco, improving his record against Verdasco to 12-0 with a 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 7-6(9) win in their third round match at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, a match that took 3 hours and 38 minutes to complete.
Though the match was gripping, the calibre of play remained poor throughout. The low quality may have been partially due to the heat, but it was also clearly nerves from both, and a lack of match play for Nadal. Both men made more errors than winners off both wings. On their forehands, Nadal hit 12 winners and 18 unforced errors, while Verdasco hit 28 winners and 29 unforced errors. On their backhands, Nadal and Verdasco each hit only three winners a-piece, while spraying a respective 10 and 14 errors off that wing.
Errors came especially frequently in the tiebreaks. Of the 43 points that were played in tiebreaks in the match, only nine ended with a winner. The ratio was especially bad in the final set tiebreak, in which only three of 20 points ended with a winner rather than an error.
Despite the back and forth nature of tiebreaks, Verdasco was unable to pull ahead at any point in the long third set tiebreak. After initially falling behind 5-1, Verdasco leveled the breaker at 5-5. But from there on he could never manage to get ahead, as Nadal earned five straight leads (match points), finally capitalizing on the fifth.
After the match, Verdasco was understandably frustrated at his inability to break through Nadal's defenses yet again.
SBN: Even though it was a very close, competitive match the whole way through, a lot of points seemed to be ending on errors rather than winners. Does that change your attitude in the match when it's that way?
Fernando Verdasco: Well, there are more errors because he push you to that errors. He play very high and deep many times. He tries not to let me get my forehand, because I think that's the weapon I hurt him with more. So he just returned with lobs trying to be deep so I cannot really attack and be offensive like every time we play.
He's the defensive player; I'm the offensive player. When you try to make winners, you make errors. When you just try to put the ball in, you don't make winners and you don't make errors.
Nadal spoke similarly about how his game of inaction bested Verdasco's action.
Q: What was the difference in the match today? There was just a few points here and there. Is there anything you can point to technically that enabled you to win?
Rafael Nadal: Probably I had a little bit few mistakes than him when the match was close. It's true he was playing more spectacular points than my ones, but I think I played with less mistake than him at the end. One less mistake in the match and arrive to the...
Q: There were a lot unforced errors on both sides.
Rafael Nadal: Exactly. The court is not easy. It's very fast and the ball is flying a lot. For me, very difficult to have the control of the ball here in this court. But I will try my best tomorrow. I think I have to do, and I will try for sure. I'm very happy to be in quarterfinals. I'm excited about the match of tomorrow.
Nadal, who next plays Mardy Fish in a quarterfinal tomorrow afternoon, chose not to pull out of his doubles match with Marc Lopez, choosing not to leave his friend and doubles partner Marc Lopez hanging. Though Fish expressed doubt that Nadal would play his doubles at all, Nadal showed (and spoke of) a lack of selfishness uncharacteristic to the individualistic, self-preserving tennis mentality.
SBN: When Mardy Fish was in here, who you're playing next, he was asked about playing a long match and then playing doubles. Fish said something like, Oh, I can't imagine he'll actually play doubles. Did you think about pulling out of doubles?
Rafael Nadal: I don't think. For me wasn't a choice, no? I have a friend here. I play with one of my best friends. He came from Spain to play the doubles. If I don't go on court today, he don't have the points or the prize money of the second round. I cannot thought about that, even if I am tired. That's what happened. I had to play, and I tried my best. We lost. I go home--well, not home, to the hotel (laughs) to relax a little bit and try to be competitive for tomorrow.
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