2020 in Review: Rafael Nadal battles past Alex de Minaur to set Novak Djokovic clash

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2020 in Review: Rafael Nadal battles past Alex de Minaur to set Novak Djokovic clash

A couple of hours after the incredible clash between Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, the crowd at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney witnessed another thrilling contest between world no. 1 Rafael Nadal and the Sydney native Alex de Minaur.

In the first rubber of the ATP Cup semi-final battle between Australia and Spain, Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Nick Kyrgios to send Spain 1-0 up ahead of the anticipated clash that turned out to be a memorable one. Rafa had to give his 100% to topple the young rival, overpowering de Minaur 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 for the fourth victory of the season and additional points on his account in the no.

1 battle with Novak Djokovic. As was expected, de Minaur gathered momentum from that epic doubles clash against Great Britain two days earlier, throwing everything at Nadal and forcing the world's leading player to dig deep for 100 minutes before he seized the control and cruised towards the finish line.

Both players served above 70%, and it was Nadal who delivered better tennis on the first serve. Alex had the advantage on the second, with the Spaniard suffering two breaks from three chances offered to the Aussie, delivering four - three in the decider - on the other side to cross the finish line first and propel Spain into the final.

Rafa made a shaky start, spraying a forehand error in the first game to suffer a break at 15. The crowd favorite held after deuce to cement the break and open a 2-0 advantage that boosted his confidence.

Rafael Nadal had to work hard in the opening two sets against Alex de Minaur.

Nadal got his name on the scoreboard with a forehand winner in game three and held at love at 1-3 to remain within one break deficit.

From 30-0 down, de Minaur won four straight points in the eighth game and closed it with a forehand down the line winner, earning a set point on the return at 5-3. Nadal saved it to prolong the set before Alex landed a forehand winner for a hold at love and 6-4.

Having to raise his level against an inspired rival, Rafa dropped only six points behind the initial shot in set number two and kept the pressure on the other side. De Minaur followed that pace until game 12 when Nadal finally grabbed his first break of the match, taking the set and stealing momentum ahead of the decider.

Riding on that wave, the more experienced player grabbed 14 of the deciding set's opening 15 points, delivering three straight return games to break Alex's resistance. Serving for the victory at 5-1, Nadal fired a service winner to move over the top and send Spain into the title match against Serbia.