ATP Cup: Rafael Nadal struggles but beats Nishioka to secure Sydney berth



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ATP Cup: Rafael Nadal struggles but beats Nishioka to secure Sydney berth

Spain is the fifth country to secure the ATP Cup quarter-final in Sydney, beating Japan 2-0 to maintain a perfect record in Group B in Perth. In the clash between unbeaten teams, Roberto Bautista Agut and Rafael Nadal were too tough to handle for Go Soeda and Yoshihito Nishioka who both gave their best in straight-sets losses.

Thus, Spain will compete against the top-ranked runner-up squad on Friday, having a day off tomorrow to get used to conditions in Sydney. Roberto Bautista Agut is three from three so far at the ATP Cup, beating Go Soeda 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 19 minutes to send Spain in front.

World no. 10 hit six aces and gave away only 11 points in nine service games, never facing a break point and keeping the pressure on the 35-year-old veteran who couldn't deal with it. Struggling on the second serve, Soeda had to play against eight break chances, getting broken three times to push the better-ranked opponent over the finish line despite a solid effort.

After four good holds on both sides in the opening games, Bautista Agut took charge and grabbed the last five games of the opener to forge a 6-2 advantage. He forced an error from the Japanese in the fifth game to earn a break, securing another one at 15 at 4-2 and locking the opener with an ace in the next game.

Roberto converted the third break chances at 2-2 in set number two when his rival sprayed a backhand error, serving well in the rest of the set and sealing the deal with a hold in game ten to drive Spain into the quarters.

World no. 1 Rafael Nadal is also three from three in 2020, having to work hard to beat Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6, 6-4 in grueling two hours and seven minutes. With an incredible quickness and defense, Nishioka was there to challenge the 19-time Major champion all the time, going for his shots and breaking Rafa twice before falling in straight sets.

Rafa had to save six out of eight break chances to stay competitive against a determined rival, finding his best tennis in the crucial moments to prevail and add more points to his tally. The encounter kicked off with four powerful holds before Nishioka stepped in to clinch a break with a backhand down the line winner in game five.

Rafa broke back in the very next game after a well-constructed attack, only to lose serve again at 4-4 when his backhand landed long. Serving for the set, a left-handed Japanese got broken at love, keeping Nadal alive and allowing him to take the tie break 7-4 after three mini-breaks, 66 minutes since the beginning of the clash.

Rafa had to dig deep at 2-3 in set number two, repelling three break chances and earning a break at 4-4 with back-to-back winners, adding three more in the next game to cross the finish line and celebrate the victory.