Nadal Continues His Perfect Season With Title Win In Acapulco

Rafael Nadal (photo: ATP Tour video)

ACAPULCO/WASHINGTON, February 27, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

There was plenty at stake when Rafael Nadal met Cameron Norrie in their title match at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on a hot and humid Saturday evening in Acapulco.

The World No. 5 from Spain was seeking his third title of the season in his third tournament of 2022. He had already won a record-breaking 21st major title at the Australian Open and during the Melbourne fortnight recorded his 500th career hard-court victory.

So, what is Nadal to do for an encore? How about win a fourth Acapulco title and with it the traditional sombrero that is crowned to the victor.

Nadal defeated the World No. 12 Norrie from Great Britain, 6-4, 6-4, in just under two hours, much to the delight of another sellout crowd that filled the Estadio at Arena GNP Seguros.

“It always has been a very special place,” Nadal said in describing Acapulco, a beach resort city on the Pacific coast of Mexico, as quoted by the ATP Tour website. “The energy that the people from Mexico bring to me is very unique.”

Nadal brought a 14-match winning streak into the final – the best of his storied career – and he had never lost to Norrie in three previous matches. All week long, he’s looked healthy and fit, perhaps putting the foot injury that sidelined him from August through the end of the 2021 season behind him. His frame of mind exuded positivity.

As for Norrie, despite losing to Nadal for the fourth straight time, it’s been a promising start to 2022 for him, too. As he sought to become the first player from Great Britain to win the Acapulco title, he brought an eight-match winning streak and was going after his second straight Tour title after winning the Delay Beach Open last week.

Both players came into the final coming after winning their Friday night semifinals against Top-5 opponents. Nadal eliminated the No. 1-in-waiting Daniil Medvedev while Norrie beat World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas. Each won in straight sets.

“Cameron is a very solid player, a tricky player,” Nadal said in complimenting his opponent after the match. “He makes you feel that you cannot play comfortably against him at all.”

Nadal took advantage of his first break-point opportunity against Norrie in the fifth game of the opening set and hit a forehand passing shot winner that pushed him ahead 3-2. He leveraged the break to win the opening set. Then, after each broke the other’s serve to open the second set, Nadal broke Norrie in consecutive service games, in the fifth and seven games, to lead 5-2. Although he surrendered one of those breaks back in the very next game, Nadal finished strong and won on his first match-point opportunity.

“I went through some very difficult moments during the match that I was able to save, and then I took advantage when I had the chances,” Nadal said.

The Spaniard finished with three aces, won 71 percent (32 of 45) of his first-serve points, converted four of five break-point chances and outpointed his opponent 63-53. Norrie countered with four aces, won 60 percent (24 of 40) of his first-serve points, and converted two of five break points.

”Rafa didn’t give me free points,” Norrie said in press. “You give him or or two and he takes advantage of them. It is impressive to see what he still does.”

Nadal’s victory over the 26-year-old Norrie culminated a week in which he didn’t drop a set while extending his season-beginning winning streak to a career-best 15-0. He’s strung together 13 winning sets in a row going back to last month’s Australian Open and has won 20 consecutive sets in Acapulco that dates to his 2020 title. He has now won 11 straight ATP Tour finals and winning Acapulco represented his 91st career crown – fourth all-time in the Open Era – and 25th on a hard-court surface.

“I’m very pleased,” added Nadal, who began the season with title victories at the Melbourne Summer Set and the Australian Open. “It was a very important title for me, so I can’t be happier.”

Indeed, it’s been a happy week for the Nadal, who leaves Acapulco with the distinction of being it’s youngest champion in the tournament’s proud 29-year history – he won at age 18 in 2005 when it was played on clay – and now is its oldest champion at age 35. He is expected to rise to No. 4 in the new ATP Rankings on Monday.

Lopez and Tsitsipas win first doubles title together

Dallas and Delray Beach champions Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands came into Saturday evening’s doubles final against Feliciano Lopez and Stefanos Tsitsipas riding high on a 10-match winning streak.

However, the back-to-back champions never led in the title match.The 40-year-old Lopez of Spain and 23-year-old Tsitsipas from Greece ended it with a 7-5, 6-4 upset of the No. 4 seeds that lasted an hour and 34 minutes on Estadio.

It was the first doubles title for Tsitsipas and sixth for Lopez, who first formed as a team last year in Vienna.

The winners served six aces – including a match-point ace by Lopez – and won 74 percent (29 of 39) of their first serve points. They broke their opponents three times and were broken just once. Lopez and Tsitsipas outpointed their opponents 59-56.

En route to their 4-0 week and first title together, Lopez and Tsitsipas dropped just one set. Their victories included a win against the No. 2 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia in the quarterfinal round.

Lopez said he and Tsitsipas spoke at last year’s Laver Cup about playing together more regularly. “We did well in Vienna losing to the Colombians and here we won our first title together. I just love playing in Mexico.”

Tsitsipas added that winning the Acapulco title will give him confidence for the future. “We had a lot of fun with Feliciano playing in front of many Mexican fans this week. We plan to team again in the future,” he said.

By the numbers

• Saturday night’s title victory was Rafael Nadal’s 15th straight win this season and by winning the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, he’s now won 11 straight ATP Tour finals.

• Rafael Nadal is now three title victories from tying Ivan Lendl’s total of 94 for third place for most Open Era singles championships won. Jimmy Connors is first with 109 and Roger Federer is second with 103.

“Quotable …”

”For me the most important thing today is that I have won a prestigious tournament in the world of tennis. Taking the victory here means a lot. It’s amazing how things change from one day to the next from practically not being able to train to being where I am.” – Rafael Nadal