'Rafael Nadal plays like no one else,' says his rival
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 3810
Rafael Nadal reached the Roland Garros second week for the 17th time from 18 trips to Paris last year. Rafa faced Botic Van De Zandschulp for the first time in the third round and earned a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 triumph to hit the last 16.
The Dutch player praised Nadal and his hitting abilities, saying no one hits like him. Botic stayed in touch in the third set after erasing a massive deficit. However, he needed more to prolong the battle against a 13-time champion.
Rafa dominated with his first serve and got broken twice. Botic could not match that pace. He lost almost half of the points in his games and suffered six breaks from 12 chances offered to a better-ranked opponent. Nadal had a massive lead in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, and Van De Zandschulp followed his pace in the most prolonged rallies.
Botic made a promising start and grabbed a break in the encounter's first game. Rafa pulled it back instantly and forged a 4-2 lead with another break in game six. Nadal closed the opener with a service winner at 5-3 after 35 minutes and gained a boost.
Rafa stormed over his opponent in the second set, delivering one good hold after another and keeping the pressure on the return. He broke Van De Zandschulp in the third game and extended the advantage with another return game at 3-1 after a forehand crosscourt winner.
Rafael Nadal defeated Botic Van De Zandschulp in straight sets in Paris.
Botic saved a set point in game seven before Rafa closed it with an ace in the next one for 6-3, 6-2. The Spaniard raced into a 4-0 lead before losing ground ahead of the finish line.
He allowed Van De Zandschulp to reduce the deficit to 5-4 with a hold at 15 in game nine. Nadal served for the match in the next one and created a match point with a volley winner. Botic denied it and earned a break chance that Rafa saved with a service winner.
The Spaniard sealed the deal on the third match point with a smash winner for a place in the last 16. "Rafa's ball comes back differently; no one plays like him. The feeling is that you have to win each point many times because it's incredible how he moves.
His high return to my backhand troubled me a lot. It's frustrating to feel that you play well and do not hurt him," Botic Van De Zandschulp said.