Rafael Nadal claimed his first Cincinnati title in 2013, seeking another four years later. The Spaniard could have played better in Ohio in 2015 and 2016, losing in the third round and failing to reach the quarter-final. Hoping for a better run in 2017, Rafa defeated his old rival Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 25 minutes for a place in the third round and a winning start.
It was their 15th meeting, the first since Basel 2015. Nadal maintained a perfect record against his coeval, taking the last 25 sets against the Frenchman! Rafa was the only player on the court, dropping 13 points in ten service games and firing 25 winners and 19 unforced errors.
He left Gasquet on a 13-26 ratio and controlled the pace to seal the deal in straight sets. The Spaniard built the advantage in the shortest exchanges, firing eight aces and playing well with his first groundstroke after the serve.
Nadal also claimed the most extended rallies to score a commanding triumph and reach the third round.
Rafael Nadal beat Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati 2017.
Nadal faced one break point while Gasquet played against seven. The Frenchman fended off five but lost serve once in each set to hit the exit door.
It was a shaky start for both players before Rafa grabbed the first break in game four after Richard's double fault that sent him 3-1 in front. Nadal served well until the end of the set to keep the advantage. It could have been even more convincing had he converted two more break opportunities in game six.
Rafa remained in front despite wasting those chances, wrapping up the opener with three service winners in game nine after 43 minutes. Nadal lost four points on serve in set number two, waiting for one good return game to seal the deal and move into the next round.
It came at 1-1 after Richard's backhand error that sent Rafa in front. The Frenchman raised his level behind the initial shot in the remaining games, producing a couple of comfortable holds. However, he needed a break to prolong his chances and extend the duel.
Nadal did not offer him any, though, controlling the pace and moving over the top with three winners at 5-4, making a winning start and reaching the last 16.
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