'I could have won a set against Rafael Nadal,' says Botic Van De Zandschulp
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 2334
Rafael Nadal and Botic Van De Zandschulp met at back-to-back Majors in 2022. Nadal scored both wins in straight sets to leave the rival behind and chase his first "Channel Slam" since 2010. In the Wimbledon fourth round, Rafa earned a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 victory over Botic in two hours and 21 minutes.
The Spaniard fired 29 winners and 17 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and getting broken twice. Nadal converted five out of 11 break chances to control the scoreboard. He could have sealed the deal earlier after building a 5-2 advantage in set number three, wasting it and keeping the rival in contention.
Rafa lost six points behind the initial shot in the opening set and kept the pressure on the other side. Van De Zandschulp avoided an early setback and played well until 4-5. Nadal broke him in game ten after a fine attack to wrap up the set.
Both players struggled to find the first serve in the second set, and Rafa still built the advantage. The Spaniard dropped six points behind the initial shot and defended a lone break chance. Nadal saved it in the opening game and broke the rival in the next one to move in front after Van De Zandschulp's loose backhand.
Rafa served well in the next three service games to open a 5-2 gap. He grabbed another break in game eight after the rival's double fault to forge two sets to love advantage in 80 minutes. Suddenly, Nadal lost serve from 40-0 up at the start of the third set to push the rival in front.
Rafael Nadal defeated Botic Van De Zandschulp twice at Majors in 2022.
The Spaniard pulled it back in game two and delivered three comfortable holds to restore the order. The pressure was on Van De Zandschulp, and he could not endure it.
Rafa broke him in game six and held at love in the next one to forge a 5-2 advantage and race toward the finish line. Nadal served for the victory in game nine but got broken at 15 to keep the rival alive and experience a setback.
Van De Zandschulp used the opportunity and held with ease twice to introduce a tie break. Rafa built an early lead and created three match points at 6-3. Botic denied the first two to reduce the deficit, and Rafa sprayed a backhand error on the third for 6-6.
Nadal earned the fourth match point with a service winner and seized it after a smash error from his rival. "My first match against Rafael Nadal came at Roland Garros. I met Rafa on clay at Roland Garros, his second home, and the circumstances could have been better.
I was a bit impressed by Rafa and the court, and it was not easy for me to challenge him. We met again at Wimbledon, and I played much better than in Paris. I had some chances in the third set, and who knows what could have happened after. Those were two great experiences," Botic Van De Zandschulp said.