Rafael Nadal: 'The first set was almost perfect'

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Rafael Nadal: 'The first set was almost perfect'

Rafael Nadal is yet to lose a match in 2022, scoring 14 victories from as many encounters and seeking the third title in Acapulco. Nadal is through to his fifth Acapulco final from six trips to Mexico, claiming titles in 2005, 2013 and 2020 and looking good to lift another following the semi-final victory over Daniil Medvedev.

The Spaniard took down Tommy Paul 6-0, 7-6 in three hours and three minutes in the quarter-final. Rafa played on a very high level in the opener to claim a bagel for the second straight day, struggling a bit in the second but moving over the top without playing a decider.

Paul was a break in front three times in the second set, but he wasted a 5-3 advantage and lost the tie break 7-5 to propel world no. 5 into the semis. Speaking about the first set, Nadal called it one of the best he performed in recent times, doing everything right on serve and return and ruling the court from every position.

Setting his backhand nicely, Rafa took the opening game with a strong shot from that wing and fired a winner in game two to forge an early advantage and gain a boost. The Spaniard cemented the lead with a hold at love and seized the fourth break chance in the next one to open a 4-0 gap after 18 minutes.

The three-time champion closed the fifth game with an unreturned serve and fired two winners in the next one for three set points. Rafa converted the second after Tommy's loose forehand to build a 6-0 advantage in 27 minutes and hoping for more in set number two.

Instead, the American grabbed an early break in the second set's first game with a backhand winner to end his downfall. Paul held in game two with an ace before Nadal pulled the break back in game four to level the score at 2-2.

Rafa got broken again in game five after a loose backhand and erased the deficit in the next one.

Rafael Nadal bageled Tommy Paul in Acapulco.

The Spaniard played another poor service game to fall 4-3 behind, and the American held in the next one from a break point down to move closer to a decider.

Rafa closed the ninth game with a forehand down the line winner and broke back in the last moment to level the score at 5-5 and gain a boost. The three-time champion saved a break chance with a forehand drive-volley winner in game 11 and the second after a well-constructed attack.

Nadal finally held and earned a match point on the return in the next one with a volley winner. Tommy saved it with a smash winner, denied the second with a service winner and fired another to introduce a tie break. From 2-0 down, Nadal landed a forehand down the line winner to reduce the deficit and opened a 3-2 gap with an unreturned serve.

Rafa forced the rival's mistake to move 5-3 in front before Tommy climbed back to 5-5 and stayed in touch. Nadal grabbed a mini-break in the 11th point and sealed the deal with a service winner for a place in the semi-final.

"The first set is one of the best ones I have played in a long time; that's the reality. It was fantastic in every way. There is no such thing as perfection, but I think it's very close considering what I can do.

I played very smoothly, hit a good shot almost every time and from the correct position on the court. Usually, when you play on such a high level in the opener, it's normal to slow down a bit in the second. It got more complicated, but I still won in straight sets," Rafael Nadal said.