Rafael Nadal endures a Caja Magica marathon and tops Pedro Cachin

Rafael Nadal is through into the last 16 in Madrid for the 18th straight time!

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal endures a Caja Magica marathon and tops Pedro Cachin
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Four-time Caja Magica champion Rafael Nadal stopped the clock at his home Masters 1000 event in Madrid. Rafa prevailed over Pedro Cachin 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 after three hours and four minutes, reaching the last 16 at the home Masters 1000 tournament for the 18th straight time!

Nadal is playing in Madrid for the 20th time, debuting in 2003 and missing the home event only a year ago due to an injury. The veteran endured all the efforts, losing the second set but bouncing back with a strong performance in the decider.

Thus, Nadal notched three consecutive wins for the first time since the 2022 US Open, plagued with numerous injuries in the previous two seasons. Rafa struggled behind the initial shot in sets two and three, dropping 42% of the points in his games.

Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Nadal got broken four times from six chances offered to his rival. The Spaniard played rock-solid tennis on the return, creating 18 opportunities and seizing nine to control sets one and three and remain on the title course.

Rafa hit only ten service winners, which was expected after dealing with an abdominal injury for a couple of months. However, he landed 36 winners and 32 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and welcoming 41 unforced mistakes from his opponent.

They stayed neck and neck in the shortest and mid-range exchanges. Nadal earned the victory in the most extended rallies, leaving Cachin behind and hoping for more good runs in the rest of the tournament. Nadal missed only four first serves in the opening set.

The veteran dropped five points behind the initial shot and never faced a break point, keeping the pressure on the other side. He clinched three return games, controlling the scoreboard and gaining an early boost. Rafa moved in front with a break in the first game of the match after Pedro's forehand error before holding in games two and four for 3-1.

The Spaniard made another push on the return in the fifth game, converting the third break chance with a forehand down the line winner and extending the advantage. Cachin struggled behind the initial shot again in game seven, spraying a forehand error on the third set point and allowing Nadal to clinch the opener 6-1 after 46 minutes.

Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal ousted Pedro Cachin in three sets in Madrid.

The second set lasted almost an hour and a half, and Rafa could not repeat the intensity from the opener.

Both players lost over half of the points in their games, with three breaks on each side. Pedro led 4-2 before Rafa erased the deficit, saving set points in the 10th game and delivering a late break at 5-6 to reach a tie break.

The home favorite stood two points away from victory at 5-5 before the Argentine stepped in and forced a decider. Cachin broke in the first game and saved a break point in the fourth for a 3-1 advantage. Rafa again lost the ground behind the initial shot in game five, suffering another break and falling 4-1 behind.

The veteran pulled one break back in game six and delivered two fine holds, reducing the deficit to 5-4.

Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Cachin served for the set in game ten and squandered two set points.

Rafa stayed competitive and converted the third break chance, locking the result at 5-5 and extending the battle. They traded more breaks in games 11 and 12, with the Argentine losing serve at love while serving for the set at 6-5!

However, Pedro stayed focused and built a 4-1 lead in the tie break. Rafa climbed back and leveled the score at 5-5 with three mini-breaks on his tally. Pedro earned a set point with a forehand winner and seized it with a return winner, forcing a decider after two hours and 12 minutes.

Nadal came from 40-15 behind at the beginning of the final set and grabbed a break with a forehand winner, regaining his composure.

Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2024© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The Spaniard held at love in game two and created two more break points in the next one that could have sent him closer to the finish line.

Pedro denied them and reduced the deficit, staying in contention. The Argentine pulled the break back in game four after the Spaniard's loose forehand, locking the result at 2-2 and extending the drama. Not looking back, Nadal earned a break chance in game five after Cachin's wayward backhand and seized it with a running backhand winner at the net that sent him 3-2 in front.

The home favorite served well in games six and eight, forcing Cachin's error and forging a 5-3 gap. Rafa made another push on the return in game nine, breaking Pedro and moving into the fourth round in front of his partisan crowd at Caja Magica.

Nadal celebrated a well-deserved victory at his beloved event, feeling good on the court after barely entering the draw following physical issues.

Rafael Nadal Pedro Cachin