Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I felt empty the whole match'

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Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I felt empty the whole match'

The inaugural Rio Open took place in February 2014, with an eight-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal leading the action. Nadal made an impressive comeback in the previous season to conquer the year-end no. 1 honor, staying on the same course at the beginning of 2014 with the Doha title and the Australian Open final.

Rafa experienced a massive setback in Melbourne, injuring his back and losing the title clash to Stan Wawrinka in four sets. Returning to action three weeks later in Rio, Rafa defeated the fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 7-5, delivering three breaks and prevailing in the second set's decisive moments to avoid spending more time on the court.

In the second round, Nadal took down Albert Montanes 6-1, 6-2 in 75 minutes and maintained that level against Joao Sousa to enter the last four after losing only one game. Facing the third Spaniard that week, Nadal had to give his 120% to topple Pablo Andujar 2-6, 6-3, 7-6, prevailing 12-10 in the tie break after fending off two match points!

Andujar threw everything he had at Nadal, winning two points more and suffering only two breaks from four chances offered to Nadal. On the other hand, Rafa fended off 11 out of 14 break chances (five out of six in the decider) and stayed in touch until the closing stages, when he crossed the finish line first after a thriller.

Andujar converted the fourth break chance in the opening game to move in front and extended the gap to 5-2 with a forehand return winner in game seven. In the eighth game, Rafa played a loose drop shot to hand the opener to Pablo, having to work harder from set number two to avoid defeat.

Rafael Nadal saved two match points against Pablo Andujar at Rio Open 2014.

Andujar suffered a break in the second set's fourth game following a backhand error, and Nadal extended the lead to 5-2 after saving a break point with a forehand winner in game seven.

Nadal sealed the set with a drop shot winner at 5-3 and gathered momentum ahead of the decider. Nadal fended off two break chances in the final set's second game and two more in game four to level the score at 2-2. They traded breaks in games seven and eight and served well in the remaining games to set up a tie break that saw 22 points.

Andujar placed a smash winner at 4-5 to stay in contention and fended off a match point at 5-6 with a forehand winner. Pablo erased another match point at 7-8 with a brilliant winner at the net and landed another in the next point for a match point.

Nadal saved two match points at 6-7 and 8-9 and sealed the deal when Andujar netted a forehand in the 22nd point to advance into the title clash. "I felt empty the whole match. It was very humid, and this was the most challenging day of the week so far.

I did not feel that great physically, and I'm not talking about my back. I did not feel that great overall. It was a tight match because he played well, and I was not at my best. The tie break was a lottery, but I played it better than the rest of the clash," Rafael Nadal said.