Nadal holds off Schwartzman
Originally published on 21/01/18 00:00
The Spaniard entered troubled waters for the first time in the championships against the industrious Argentine, but he swiftly restored order after a second set lull.
With this victory, Nadal is now guaranteed to remain as world No.1 at the conclusion of the first Grand Slam of the year.
Marin Cilic stands between the top seed and a semi-final berth. The Croatian registered his 100th win at a major by overcoming Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(2) 6-3 7-6(0) 7-6(3) in a lengthy encounter.
“Diego is a great player in all aspects, “acknowledged Nadal, post-match. “I felt for a lot of the afternoon he was serving well, and that is usually something he is a little bit more uncomfortable with.
“I was able to keep fighting until the end and this was the first big match that I’ve played in 2018. I started later this year (missed Brisbane), so a match like this probably helps because it gives me confidence knowing that I can resist playing almost fours hours on court at a good intensity."
Nadal had won all three previous meeting with Schwartzman – and he looked set to maintain his perfect record when he bagged the opener convincingly.
The speedy Argentine is a gritty character though, and he demonstrated his battling qualities in the second set. Three times he slipped a break behind, yet somehow snatched it in a tiebreak.
The Spaniard appeared unsure how to contain his unrelenting attacking opponent – and his unusually high unforced-error count highlighted his unease.
Schwartzman’s ball-striking was exceptional in the closing stages of the second set, however he missed an early chance to move ahead in the third. He overcooked a makeable forehand to snatch the lead, and it was a costly mistake.
Nadal held on and then achieved a break of his own to move 2-0 ahead. The Spaniard had finally settled down after tricky period, and his willingness to be assertive was predominately why he was able to re-establish control and move within a set of victory.
The world No.1 was being pushed and pressed by his inspired rival, and the fourth set was equally tight. The Argentine had five chances to break the Spaniard’s momentum and race into the lead, but hewas repeatedly denied.
Schwartzman was unable to make the most of opportunities, and he soon fell a break behind again. He tried desperately to claw his way back into contention, but Nadal’s first serve came to his rescue time and time again.
Nadal made it through after nearly four hours of hard graft, however it’s the Argentine who departs with his reputation enhanced.