United Cup: Rafael Nadal falls to Alex de Minaur

Rafael Nadal is yet to win a match this season

by Jovica Ilic
United Cup: Rafael Nadal falls to Alex de Minaur

World no. 2 Rafael Nadal is yet to win a match this season. Rafa is 0-2 at the United Cup following a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 loss to Alex de Minaur in Sydney. Thus, Nadal has lost the season's opening two matches for the first time in a career, having to raise his level ahead of the Australian Open title defense.

Rafa pulled the break back in the decider before playing a terrible service game at 5-5 that cost him dearly. Nadal lost serve in the middle of the opening set before rattling off four straight games for 6-3 in 46 minutes. Rafa held after deuce in the encounter's first game with a smash winner, and they stayed neck and neck until 2-2.

Rafa sprayed a forehand error in the fifth game to drop serve and fall behind. Alex squandered a game point in the next one and lost serve after a forced volley mistake. Nadal gained a boost, held at love in game seven and grabbed another break from 40-0 down to forge a 5-3 advantage after the rival's wayward forehand.

Alex de Minaur prevailed over Rafael Nadal in Sydney.

Rafa cracked a backhand crosscourt winner while serving for the set in game nine and converted it to move in front. The second set saw only seven games and still lasted over 50 minutes after numerous deuces.

De Minaur took charge with three consecutive breaks for 6-1 and a massive boost ahead of the decider. Rafa made a better start and delivered his third straight break for a 6-3, 1-0 advantage. The Spaniard failed to bring the second game home, and the Aussie seized the fourth break chance with a backhand winner for 1-1.

Nadal struggled behind the initial shot again in game four, unable to find free points and impose his strokes. Alex grabbed the fourth break point with a backhand winner that moved him 3-1 ahead. De Minaur forced Nadal's mistake in the fifth game to save a break point and closed the game with a volley winner for 4-1.

Losing the rhythm, Nadal lost serve again in game six after a wild forehand, allowing his rival to serve for the set. The Aussie fell 40-0 down in the seventh game before converting the second set point after forcing Nadal's mistake, introducing a decider after an hour and 41 minutes.

Rafa made a better start in the final set, serving well and creating break chances in game two. De Minaur denied four and closed the game after Nadal's loose forehand for a vital hold. Alex delivered a break at 15 in game five after Rafa's routine backhand error and took a massive step toward the finish line.

However, Nadal cracked a forehand crosscourt winner in the sixth game to pull the break back and extend the battle. The Spaniard held at love in the ninth game for 5-4, leaving his opponent to serve to stay in the match. Alex stayed calm and brought the game home at 30 for 5-5 and more drama.

Nadal played a terrible service game and got broken at love in game 11 after a forehand error, pushing the rival 6-5 in front. De Minaur held at love with a service winner in game 12 to topple Nadal and deliver a victory for his country in his hometown.

Rafael Nadal Alex De Minaur