No respite for Rafael Nadal

03 January,2023 08:09 AM IST |  Sydney  |  AFP

World No.2 Nadal’s Australian Open preparations take a beating as he slumps to second straight defeat at United Cup; Fritz beats Zverev in just 64 minutes

Spain’s Rafael Nadal wears a dejected look after losing a point to Australia’s Alex De Minaur during their men’s singles match of the United Cup tennis tournament in Sydney. Pics/AFP

World number two Rafael Nadal slumped to a second-straight defeat at the United Cup on Monday in a setback to his Australian Open preparations.

There was also more misery for former world number two Alexander Zverev, who, like Nadal, suffered a second loss to start his season, this time at the hands of Taylor Fritz. Spanish 22-time Grand Slam winner Nadal surprisingly crashed in his season-opening match on Saturday to 14th-ranked Cameron Norrie. And he again succumbed after winning the first set, going down 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 to Australia's 24th-ranked Alex De Minaur in Sydney, including losing six games in a row in the second set.

Alex De Minaur

Elation for De Minaur

"Honestly, I couldn't be happier that I managed to get my first win over Rafa on this court, it's no secret this is my favourite court in the world," said De Minaur. "Rafa is a hell of a competitor and what he has been able to do for this sport is truly astounding so I'm just honoured. It's a dream come true for me."

It went with serve to 2-2 in the first set, but Nadal played some loose shots and a double fault handed De Minaur a break point, then he sent a forehand long to go 2-3 behind. But the Australian couldn't sustain the pressure and Nadal broke straight back. After a slow start, the Spaniard found his groove and in a devastating burst won the next three games to take the set. De Minaur appeared deflated and was broken again on his first serve of the second set, but he flicked a switch to reel off six games in a row to leave Nadal stunned. They exchanged breaks in the third set before a string of unforced errors from Nadal allowed De Minaur to break again for 6-5 and serve out for the win.

Also Read: Rafael Nadal: It's good for tennis

Fritz on song

World number nine Fritz beat Zverev 6-1, 6-4 in just 64 minutes. It followed the German's loss to 81st-ranked Czech Jiri Lehecka on Saturday in his first competitive match since tearing three right ankle ligaments during his French Open semi-final against Nadal in June. "It was tough to judge my level because I feel he's coming back from injury, he's a bit rusty, he was giving me a lot of free points," said Fritz, who had a breakthrough year in 2022 with titles at Indian Wells, Tokyo and Eastbourne. "But I'm really happy with it."

World number one Swiatek gave Poland a 1-0 lead against Switzerland in a winner-takes-all tie that will decide Group B in Brisbane, beating Belinda Bencic 6-3, 7-6 (7/3). "I'm a perfectionist, but I'm super happy with my performance today," said Swiatek.

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