Nadal Dominates AO Rematch With Medvedev In Acapulco

Rafael Nadal (photo: ATP Tour video)

ACAPULCO/WASHINGTON, February 26, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The last time Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev met, the World No. 5 from Spain earned a five-set, Grand Slam title victory over the 2nd ranked Russian, coming from two sets down to win. Nadal broke the all-time record with his 21st major singles title.

Less than a month later, Nadal and Medvedev met again. This time, it came in the semifinals of the ATP 500 Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC Friday night before a sold-out crowd that filled 10,000-seat Arena GNP Seguros. Regardless of the outcome, Medvedev was already guaranteed to ascend to be the new No. 1 on Monday.

This time, Nadal dominated Medvedev and won 6-3, 6-3 in two hours. He saved 11 break points and extended his career-best start to 14-0. The loss dropped Medvedev to 12-3.

Nadal improved to 24-2 in this ATP 500 event. He’s now captured 18 straight sets going back to his 2020 title run.

“I played some amazing points on the break points,” the 35-year-old Nadal said during a post-match interview. He said that the court conditions, which favored a high bounce, helped him against Medvedev. Coupled with his Australian Open victory, Nadal has now won five straight sets against Medvedev.

“I don’t think that I played great today, my whole level on the match was not good enough to play against a player like Rafa,” Medvedev said in press. “There’s not such a thing that I can take from this, to be honest. I need to change everything I did today. I feel like I was missing some energy today.”

Nadal controlled the Acapulco semifinal from the outcome. He struck a cross-court forehand winner to win the very first point of the match and took off from there. Nadal hit solid returns from the baseline and pressured Medvedev during his first few service games. In the second set, Medvedev tried to mix up the tempo of his returns by hitting drop shots and also playing serve and volley. Nadal was ready for everything the 26-year-old Russian could muster.

A couple of turning points came in the second set as Nadal saved four break points during an 18-point fourth game. Then, two games later in his next service game, the Spaniard saved seven more break points in a 19-minute 24-point thriller, in which his patience – not to mention his ability to close points – were a virtue to be admired.

“The second set was very emotional. Daniil was playing very aggressive – drop shots, winners. It was a very difficult set. I feel lucky to win that set because he had a lot of chances,” Nadal said.

After defeating No. 39 Tommy Paul of the United States in straight but contrasting sets a night earlier on Thursday evening, Nadal gave plenty of props to his semifinal opponent, the soon-to-be No. 1 Medvedev.

“Everybody knows how difficult it is to play against Daniil. I know I have to play at my highest level if I want to have any chance, and that’s what I’m going to try. I have to play my game,” said Nadal, a three-time Acapulco champion (2005, 2013, 2020 with the first two coming on clay), who began this season winning his first two tournaments in Melbourne (Melbourne Summer Set and Australian Open).

“Everybody knows how difficult the final was in Australia. Tomorrow is going to be another battle. I know he’s playing well, plenty of confidence. I am excited to play that match.”

With his latest win over Medvedev, Nadal improved to 5-1 in their career head-to-head series.

Norrie advances to second straight Tour title match

Meanwhile, in the other semifinal, World No. 12 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain advanced to his second straight Tour title match with his 6-4, 6-4 victory over World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, in an hour and 17 minutes, which kept the Greek star from reaching his ninth ATP 500 final. It was the British No. 1 Norrie’s eighth straight win this season and eighth consecutive semifinal victory.

Norrie served seven aces and hit 20 winners to just 12 unforced errors on the strength of his topspin forehand. He saved the only break point he faced, which came in the sixth game of the second set, and converted two of three break points. Both times, Tsitsipas, who had not lost a set until Friday, was broken in the ninth game of each set. Norrie, who outpointed his opponent 57-47, closed out the semifinal victory after Tsitsipas netted a forehand that capped a 14-shot rally.

“In general, [I hit] my forehand very loopy, my backhand very flat,” Norrie said during a post-match interview. “I was able to dictate play to his backhand and defend my forehand quite well. I definitely felt that better in the second set, and I think my game is pretty good in these conditions.”

After losing his first four matches of 2022, Norrie has gone 10-1 in February and last week won his third career ATP Tour title at the Delray Beach Open. He’s 0-3 lifetime against Nadal, but the 21-time Grand Slam champion is impressed by Norrie.

“His level of tennis is huge. He improved a lot at the beginning of last year, and this year he continues,” Nadal said.

“It’s going to be a big challenge, but we are in the final of a 500 her ini Acapulco. So, can’t expect an easy opponent. I’m excited about being in the final.”

Doubles final pairings set

No. 4 seeds Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands advanced to the doubles final with their 7-5, 7-5 victory over unseeded Hans Hach Verdugo of Mexico and John Isner of the United States.

In Saturday’s final, Arevalo-Gonzalez and Rojer will play Feliciano Lopez of Spain and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.

It’s been a busy week for Tsitsipas, playing both singles and doubles with the 40-year-old Lopez. The duo beat lucky losers Lloyd Glasspool of Great Britain and Harri Heliovaara of Finland, 6-4, 6-4, in the semifinals after Tsitsipas had lost his singles semifinal to Cameron Norrie.

The 23-year-old Greek star was biding to become the third player to sweep singles and doubles titles in tournament history and first since Gustavo Kuerten in 2001.

Friday’s Acapulco results

Saturday’s Acapulco order of play

By the numbers

Rafael Nadal improve to 7-3 against Top 10 players during the last 12 months following his victory over World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev.

“Quotable …”

“By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I’ve been in so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It’s just not easy to hear all this news. … I’m all for peace.”

Daniil Medvedev of Russia, speaking this week on the escalation of conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“I can give an opinion as a citizen. I don’t want to talk about who is to blame, but for me it’s unbelievable that there are wars at this moment. I can’t comprehend it and I wish for it to end now, because at the end of the day I think it´s devastating and incomprehensible news.”

Rafael Nadal of Spain, commenting on the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.