ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Rafael Nadal serves his way past John Isner



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ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Rafael Nadal serves his way past John Isner

Madrid Masters 1000 events changed the venue, surface and place in the calendar in 2009, becoming one of three premium ATP events on clay alongside Monte Carlo and Rome. Roger Federer was the inaugural champion in Caja Magica, beating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in the title match, just a day after Rafa had to survive that thrilling battle against Novak Djokovic that lasted for four hours and three minutes.

A year later, the Spaniard returned to Madrid as the second seed behind Roger Federer, seeking the title in front of the home fans and making a winning start against a qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov for the place in the third round.

There, Rafa met the 13th seed John Isner for the second time in two months, scoring a 7-5, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 27 minutes to book the place in the quarter-final, his 19th consecutive and the 40th in the last 45 events at the Masters 1000 level!

They both served at 65% and Nadal made all the difference with his second serve, dropping eight points in total behind the initial shot and never facing a break chance, mounting all the pressure on the other side of the net.

The American gave his best to remain in touch but his second serve let him down, suffering one break in each set from two chances offered to Rafa to finish his run in the third round. They had a similar number of winners and it was Nadal who tamed his strokes more efficiently, staying around ten unforced mistakes and having the upper hand in the more extended exchanges to seal the deal in straight sets.

Barely losing a point behind the first serve on fast Madrid clay, Isner stayed in touch until 5-5 in the opener, with nine points for the returners in the first ten games and no opportunities for a break. That all changed on John's serve in game 11 after he netted a forehand, offering a chance to the Spaniard who seized it following another loose forehand from his rival to open a 6-5 gap.

Serving for the set, Nadal landed three winners at 15-30 to clinch the set and earn a massive boost ahead of set number two, hoping for a similar performance in his games and at least some chances on the return. It came in the third game after a weak drop shot from Isner that Nadal caught to place a forehand crosscourt winner, creating a break opportunity and converting it thanks to another perfect forehand crosscourt winner that sent him miles in front.

The home star confirmed the break with a service winner, firing another one a couple of games later to remain 4-2 ahead. Dominating with his serve and forehand, Nadal brought the eighth game home at love and sealed the deal with an ace down the T line at 5-4 to secure the place in the last eight against Gael Monfils.