It wasn’t as straight forward a first match as a seed might expect, but the Mutua Madrid Open is a Masters 1000 tournament and there is always the possibility of crossing paths with a dangerous opponent at the first hurdle. And that is exactly what happened to Rafa Nadal in his opener in the Caja Mágica in 2019 against Felix Auger-Aliassime, not so much because of his opponent’s experience, as his current form. However, the Spaniard won with a convincing 6-3, 6-3.
In one hour and 37 minutes he dispelled any doubts about his fitness, having suffered from a virus over the weekend during his preparations on the clay in the Spanish capital. But he worked through it and his performance on court was a reflection of the progress he has made in recent days as he sealed a half century of wins in Madrid.
The player from Manacor overcame the #NextGenATP 18 year old, who is among the top 10 players with the most victories this season, with a record of 16-9 (10 including Wednesday’s defeat). But in their first FedEx ATP Head2Head clash, the 33-time ATP Masters 1000 champion made sure he was not upset by the in-form Canadian.
Nadal, who had confessed in the days leading up to his opener that he was enjoying his best week of training in the clay season so far, rediscovered his forehand to dominate the match. Without any difficulties on his serve during the first set, he had to wait until the eighth game to pounce on his only chance to break in the entire set (4-3).
After confirming the advantage and taking the lead (5-3), he reeled off five games on the trot to go from 3-3 in the first set to 6-3, 2-0, putting him in a position to finish off the match. Another break allowed him to serve for victory, but after taking a 30-15 lead, the Canadian won four consecutive points, capped off with a double fault from his opponent (5-3).
The five-time Madrid champion bounced back immediately to break again (4/5 in total) and make his way to the third round, where he will meet Frances Tiafoe. The US player defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and will meet the Spaniard for the second time this season, after their quarter-final clash at the Australian Open, which Nadal won 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.