“Very happy to start the season with a title…and from where we are coming, it’s very special,” Nadal emphasized after winning his 89the career title from American qualifier Maxime Cressy in straight sets of 7-6, 6-3. It’s been a long road to glory nearly half the year of oftentimes more disappointments than joys. At 35, he knows that the ATP big three or four players, him included, are shrinking in amounts. The new fellows on the block and the developing ones are slowly taking over the tour. The idea of capturing wins but especially titles is a great thing compared to what he went through in the last 6 months.
The last event Nadal participated in was an exhibition in Abu Dhabi. During usual non-Pandemic days, the tournament would be easily predicted and such enjoyment to play. But last month the Spaniard’s first round was against Andy Murray, of which he fell in straight sets to the Brit of 6-3, 7-5. Rafa also was defeated by Canada’s Denis Shapovalov who sent him packing. The Spaniard had just returned from a 4-month hiatus due to a foot injury, leaving him unsure if he would ever play that soon. But after departing from Abu Dhabi, Nadal then tested positive for Covid-19 as he landed in Spain.
Rafa knows that it takes a greater amount of resilience to just play routinely but winning and excelling is a huge deal. He had said that “If we put everything together and analyze all the things that I went through…of course I am happy.” Cressy was no easy feat to defend as Nadal was up against some fast plays that he certainly had to create good strategy and reflexes. They had tied the game at 3-all in the opening set. Cressy fought hard bringing the set to a tiebreak. The Spaniard played the more clever and experienced thus winning the tiebreak in just about an hour. The second set weighed heavily on Nadal’s predictability, strategies and just being in the came for decades. it was his passing shots, opening up the court and all skills that took over to win the second set and match. There were a handful of times though that Cressy had come on strong putting Nadal in jeopardy of losing more games than he did. Maxime even laughingly said that “I know it’s not easy playing a serve-and-volleyer…especially now that they’re gone.” But Nadal’s take on his level of performance was good, saying: “Tonight I think I played my best match so far since I arrived here…against a very difficult player.”
The title was a joy to capture and it took him 13 hard playing years to come up with the 2nd title in Australia. Rafael Nadal has now started his run in the warm-ups to prepare for the Australian Open starting on January 17. If everything goes well, he will stick to his strategies and game plan, feeling satisfied if victories prevail. If things don’t turn out well, then it’s back to the drawing board on making his performances sharper to turn out wins.