Sunday, December 3, 2023

Nadal can not with Coric on his return to the slopes

The Spanish Rafa Nadal fell this Wednesday 7-6 (9), 4-6 and 6-3 against the Croatian Borna Coric in his debut at the Cincinnati Masters 1,000, in his first match after an abdominal injury forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon.

Nadal, champion this year at the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Melbourne and Acapulco, had not played since July 6 and surrendered to Coric after a match of two hours and 53 minutes.

Nadal did not lack commitment or desire to fight, but his abdominal problem continues to condition his game and preventing him from competing with total serenity.

The Spaniard, winner of this tournament in 2013, had leveled the match with a great reaction in the second set, after wasting two set points in the first, but succumbed in the third to the powerful and aggressive tennis of his rival. Because Coric, who disputes Cincinnati with a protected ranking, showed off the talent that led him to be number 12 in the world in 2018, before a long series of injuries slowed down his growth. The Croatian, who had already beaten Nadal in this same tournament in 2016, now has a record of three wins and two losses against Nadal.

It was a physically and mentally demanding match, which was interrupted for an hour and a half because of the rain that fell in Cincinnati when Nadal was leading 5-4 in the first set. Until then, Nadal played a good level game, solid on serve, and even after the break he had scored two set points, in the tiebreaker, to take advantage. However, he was unable to take advantage of them and committed a double fault that cost him the first quarter (9-11).

Rafa did not lose his calm and gradually managed to pave the way for a breakout opportunity that would come at 3-3 and that he would convert to take the lead 4-3. He gave Coric no chance and leveled the match at 6-4.

The inertia was again in their favor and they had a 0-30 with Coric on serve with 1-1 on the scoreboard that could have been the opportunity to complete the comeback. He failed to take advantage of that opportunity and Coric managed, being 3-2 up in the light, the break that launched him to 4-2 and that opened the way to victory.

The Majorcan, winner of this tournament in 2013, had resigned from the Montreal tournament last week due to some minor discomfort suffered in training.

Nadal himself acknowledged, in the press conference after the match, that he did not play “his best game” and that this tournament is “historically difficult” for him. Coric did not tremble when it came to keeping his turns on serve and sentenced the match with a 6-4 that sent him to the round of 16, in which he will be the rival of the Spanish Roberto Bautista. The man from Castellón reached this round after beating the American Marcos Giron this Wednesday, 6-3, 6-3. They know each other very well, because this Thursday will be their eighth confrontation, with Bautista who won four, for Coric’s three.

The other surviving Spaniard in the tournament, Carlos Alcaraz, will face Croatian Marin Cilic on Thursday.


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