'Rafael Nadal lost the opening seven points, and then he..,' Alexei Popyrin recalls

Tennis - Nadal defeated Popyrin in straight sets in Madrid last year

by Jovica Ilic
'Rafael Nadal lost the opening seven points, and then he..,' Alexei Popyrin recalls

Alexei Popyrin enjoyed a great start to the 2021 season, with 15 ATP wins on his tally after Madrid. Alexei scored two victories at Caja Magica to set the third-round clash against the king of clay Rafael Nadal. The Aussie made a perfect start and claimed the opening seven points.

Rafa bounced back and earned a 6-3, 6-3 victory in 79 minutes. Speaking about the match, Alexei said that Rafa changed his tactics after losing those opening seven points, targeting his backhand and taking advantage. Popyrin stayed aggressive from start to finish, landing 20 winners and the same number of unforced errors, while Rafa stayed on an 11-15 ratio.

The Spaniard did more damage with his initial shot and controlled the pace in the shortest and mid-range rallies. The home star fended off five out of six break points in the opener and stole Popyrin's serve four times to move into the next round.

The Aussie held at love in the opening game and created three break chances in the next one. Nadal repelled them and closed the game with a service winner to avoid an early setback. Wasting his chances, Alexei lost the ground a bit and hit a double fault in game three to fall behind.

Rafa held at 30 with another powerful serve to open a 3-1 gap. The youngster sprayed a backhand mistake in the fifth game to experience another break before finding the rhythm on the return and reducing the deficit to 2-4. Popyrin brought the seventh game home to remain in touch, and Nadal grabbed another break at 5-3 to wrap up the opener in 42 minutes.

Rafael Nadal defeated Alexei Popyrin in the Madrid Masters third round.

The Spaniard fired a forehand down the line winner at the beginning of the second set for a hold at love. He placed another in game two to break at love and make a perfect start.

Nadal confirmed the lead with a service winner in game three and held at 15 with an ideal backhand crosscourt winner for 4-1. Alexei served great after that initial break, producing fine holds in games four, six and eight to remain within one break deficit and hoping for a chance on the return.

Instead, Rafa closed the seventh game with a powerful forehand that forced the rival's error and moved over the top with a hold at 15 at 5-3, securing the quarter-final berth for the 11th time at Caja Magica. "Rafa did not do anything special throughout the match.

Still, in the middle of the first set, I thought I had to do more than I did, and that caused mistakes. I gifted him the match in a way, and I chalk this down to experience. I will learn from it; he is one of the greatest players of all time.

I won the opening seven points, and Rafa completely changed his tactics straight away, hitting loopy balls to the backhand and trying to pressure me. Next time we play, I will not fall into that trap. I will focus on what I have to do and try not to blast him off the court with every single shot. I learned I should not be scared to rally with him," Alexei Popyrin said.

Rafael Nadal Alexei Popyrin