Rafael Nadal showed no signs of a bad stomach bug Wednesday in Madrid, smacking Canadian teen Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3 in his Madrid opener.
“It’s a day to be very satisfied, very happy. I managed to win. I managed to win in two sets [against] an opponent, who was not easy, and the day was not the best. It was windy and cold,” Nadal said. “Of course there have been positive things. I think that my backhand has been really well and other things. There are many things to improve, of course.
“The important thing is to win, especially given what’s happened in the last three days,” he added.
“The first seven games I didn’t have a lot of rhythm. Both him and I, we were struggling when returning the balls. We had a lot of first serves and returning was very difficult… I managed to do a break, and from there onwards, it’s a turning point. I think I started to return a little bit better from thereon. And I did things better than him.”
Seeking a sixth Madrid title on clay, Nadal will now face American youngster Frances Tiafoe who took down Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“Frances is a very high-level opponent. He has a lot of speed. He’s very aggressive. And he’s an electric player. He serves very well. He moves very good on the clay,” Nadal said. “He comes in with a lot of confidence.
“He has that drive and energy, and it will be a good test for me and an opportunity for me to play a tough match and to keep improving.”
The other big story on the day was the final match for Spanish great and French Open finalist David Ferrer. Early on, it looked like Ferrer would play another day as the 37-year-old jumped out to a 4-1 lead on the struggling Alexander Zverev. But the German suddenly found the mark to run off nine straight games and take it 6-4, 6-1.
A 20-minute celebration on the court followed with his friends, family and Manolo Santana coming on the court.
“It’s been a very emotional night,” Ferrer said after. “It’s been completely different to any other important moment in my life that I have experienced previously. I was not expecting it.
“I never expected a goodbye or farewell like today. I tried to play at a high level during the last year, but a day like today, people at work tomorrow, everyone stays here to support me and that is something that I will only have in my mind and in my heart. It’s something I will never forget.
“It’s the only match that I have lost and I’m not very sad. Whenever I lost a match in the past, I left very sad. Today I’m not sad. Today is a day that I want to enjoy, and I’m very happy to be able to enjoy a day like today.”
Zverev, who was in need of a big victory, will try to win consecutive matches at an event for a first time since Acapulco tomorrow in the third round against the tough Pol Hubert Hurkacz who beat Lucas Pouile 7-5, 6-1.
Juan Martin del Potro’s 2019 clay debut didn’t end with a win, but he didn’t get injured. The Argentine fell to Serb Laslo Djere 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.
Djere served 4-5, 30-40 in the third set down a match point before recovering. Del Potro finished just 2-for-11 on break chances.
Djere, who won Rio earlier this year, will face Marin Cilic.
Fernando Verdasco joined Rafa in the third round after a tough 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5 win over the slumping Karen Khachanov. Next for Verdasco is Stefanos Tsitsipas who beat Adrian Mannarino in straights.
Stan Wawrinka took down the clay win leader on the year, Guido Pella, 6-3, 6-4. Showing improved form of late, Wawrinka will meet Kei Nishikori tomorrow. Nishikori had a tougher-than-expected test over Bolivian qualifier Hugo Dellien 7-5, 7-5.
Jeremy Chardy and Fabio Fognini were also winners.
Headlining Thursday, Roger Federer returns to face Gael Monfils in their first meeting in almost five years. Federer leads 9-4 in that series and he also seeks his 1,200th career victory.
Novak Djokovic is also back, he’ll face Chardy who he has beaten in all 12 previous meetings.
It’s also the first time in years that all of the Big 3 – Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – will be on the same day on the clay.
THURSDAY MADRID SCHEDULE
Manolo Santana 12:00 Noon
QF 3 Simona Halep v 9 Ashleigh Barty
Not Before 2:00 Pm
3rd Rd 1 Novak Djokovic v Jeremy Chardy
Not Before 4:00 Pm
3rd Rd 4 Roger Federer v 15 Gael Monfils
Not Before 8:00 Pm
3rd Rd Frances Tiafoe v 2 Rafael Nadal
Not Before 9:30 Pm
QF 7 Kiki Bertens v 2 Petra Kvitova
Arantxa Sanchez 12:00 Noon
3rd Rd 9 Marin Cilic v Laslo Djere
Not Before 2:00 Pm
QF 1 Naomi Osaka v Belinda Bencic
Not Before 4:00 Pm
QF 8 Sloane Stephens v Petra Martic
3rd Rd (Q) Hubert Hurkacz v 3 Alexander Zverev
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