Madrid Flashback: Rafael Nadal gets lucky against injured Kei Nishikori

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Madrid Flashback: Rafael Nadal gets lucky against injured Kei Nishikori
Madrid Flashback: Rafael Nadal gets lucky against injured Kei Nishikori

Rafael Nadal defended his Madrid Masters title in 2014, toppling an injured Kei Nishikori in the title clash to lift his third trophy in front of the partisan crowd in Caja Magica. Nadal had an excellent clay-court swing in 2013, winning six titles and conquering Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros.

Things did not work that well for the king of clay in 2014. He suffered quarter-final losses in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and wished for a better run in Madrid. Rafa played well against Juan Monaco, Jarkko Nieminen, Tomas Berdych and Roberto Bautista Agut to advance into the fifth final from six editions in Caja Magica.

Nadal faced Kei Nishikori in the title clash and had to work hard to earn a 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 victory in two hours and 43 minutes. It was Nadal's 27th Masters 1000 crown and the fourth in Madrid, winning the first on an indoor court nine years earlier.

The aggressive Japanese had the strings of the encounter in his hands. He needed only an hour to forge a 6-2, 4-2 advantage, standing on the verge of his first Masters 1000 title.

Kei Nishikori had a big lead vs. Rafael Nadal before an injury in Madrid 2014.

However, he suffered a back injury that forced him to retire in the decider!

Struggling to match the rival's pace, Rafa got broken three times in the first part of the encounter, making too many errors and failing to impose his strokes. Still, the Spaniard claimed seven straight games from 4-2 down in the second set to improve his numbers against the opponent who was miles from his best.

Rafa secured three consecutive breaks before Kei retired after taking only one point in the third set. Nishikori had the upper hand in the most extended rallies. Nadal erased the deficit in the shortest and mid-range exchanges.

He played better and better after that comeback and celebrated the title soon after that, as Nishikori had nothing left in the tank. Kei earned a break in the third game by spreading the defending champion over the baseline.

The Japanese confirmed it with a service winner and forged a 4-1 advantage with another break in game five following a strong return that Rafa failed to control. Nadal saved a set point at 1-5, but that was all we saw from him, as Nishikori closed the opener with an ace in the next game after 36 minutes.

Kei secured a break at the beginning of the second set with a forehand winner. He acted as a dominant figure on the court and fended off three break chances in the next one to cement the advantage. The Japanese held at 15 in game six for a 6-2, 4-2 lead, overpowering the home favorite in every segment and looking good to seal the deal soon.

Still, he started to struggle at that moment, asking for a medical timeout after the seventh game for a lower back injury and never winning another game! Rafa pulled the break back in game eight after a sublime defense, gathering a boost and holding at love to gain the lead.

After another treatment, Kei got broken in game ten to hand the set to the crowd favorite. The Japanese took only one point in the decider's first three games and retired after not willing to risk an even more severe injury.

Rafael Nadal Kei Nishikori Madrid Masters

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