Rafael Nadal moves closer to Roger Federer's Major record
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 11958
Rafael Nadal made a notable debut at Majors back in 2003. The 17-year-old entered the Wimbledon draw and scored two wins to become the youngest player in the third round since Mats Wilander and Boris Becker in the 80s. Nineteen years later, Nadal owns 22 Major titles and over 300 victories on the most notable scene, still fighting for the trophies at 36.
Rafa made a winning start at the Australian Open, beating the young Briton Jack Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in three hours and 41 minutes. Thus, Nadal scored a Major victory for the 21st straight year, leaving Andre Agassi at 20 and trailing only one year behind Roger Federer.
Rafa came to Melbourne with seven losses in the past 11 matches, struggling with an injury since the last year's Wimbledon and dropping both encounters at the United Cup. Nadal dug deep in the opening three sets against the fellow left-hander before leaving him behind in the fourth.
Rafa hit 41 winners and 46 unforced errors and saved seven out of 11 break chances. The Spaniard broke the Briton six times from 12 opportunities to emerge at the top and advance into the second round. Draper had the advantage in the rallies up to four strokes, which kept them in touch in the opening three sets.
Nadal took charge in the more extended exchanges to bring the victory home and match Ivan Lendl's 1068 ATP wins. The returners barely won a point in the opening seven games, with Rafa holding for 4-3 after only 25 minutes. Draper saved a break point with a service winner in game eight and stayed on the positive side.
Rafael Nadal claimed his first Major victory at Wimbledon 2003.
Nadal kept the pressure on his rival and made one last push on the return in the 12th game. Rafa forced the rival's mistake to create a set point and seized it with a forehand crosscourt winner for 7-5 in 54 minutes.
Jack took charge in the second set, serving well and finding the rhythm behind the return. Rafa squandered game points at the start of the set and got broken after Jack's volley winner. The youngster held at love in game two and grabbed another break in the next one following a backhand down the line bullet.
Nadal struggled and faced more break points at 0-4. He saved them to reduce the deficit and avoid a bagel. A left-handed Briton stayed calm and held at 15 in game eight to wrap up an impressive set and level the overall score after an hour and 47 minutes.
Nadal made a fresh start in the third set and broke Draper at 2-1 following the youngster's double fault. Jack struggled physically but broke back in game seven thanks to Rafa's loose forehand. The Spaniard clinched a crucial break at 5-4 to wrap up the set and open two sets to one advantage.
They traded breaks at the start of the fourth set, and Nadal delivered three straight return games to forge a 5-1 lead. The Spaniard saved break points in game seven and sealed the deal after the rival's forehand error.