2023 In Review: Rafael Nadal loses season's opener

Rafael Nadal fell to Cameron Norrie in Sydney at the United Cup

by Jovica Ilic
2023 In Review: Rafael Nadal loses season's opener
© Brendon Thorne / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal kicked off the season behind us at the United Cup, seeking the team title for Spain. World no. 2 did not play well at the end of 2022 due to an injury, but he attempted to change that at the beginning of 2023. Rafa faced Cameron Norrie in Sydney and experienced a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss in two hours and 44 minutes.

It was Nadal's fifth loss in the previous six matches, taking the opener but losing ground in sets two and three. The Briton denied five out of six break points, raising his level after the first set and breaking the Spaniard two times in sets two and three for a notable victory, his first over world no.

2. Rafa made a reliable start, serving well in the first set and making the difference with a single break. They served well in the opening five games, with Nadal leading 3-2. Norrie wasted a game point in game six, and his rival grabbed a break with a forehand crosscourt winner.

Rafael Nadal fell to Cameron Norrie at the United Cup.

Rafa fired a forehand winner in the sixth game, saving a break point and bringing it home after deuces for a 5-2 advantage. Nadal served for the opener in game nine and landed a service winner for 6-3 after 52 minutes.

As in the opener, they served well at the beginning of the second set. Cameron served well and gained confidence to attack on the return. The Briton earned three break chances in the sixth game. The Spaniard erased them and stayed competitive after denying the fourth with a service winner.

However, Norrie made the fifth break chance and seized it after Nadal's loose backhand, opening a 4-2 advantage. Cameron saved a break point in game seven with a powerful serve and earned two set points on the return in the next one.

Nadal denied them with strong hitting and held to prolong the set. Norrie served for the set at 5-3 and held at 30 after Nadal's forehand error, introducing a decider after an hour and 37 minutes. The deciding set lasted over an hour, and the Briton emerged at the top with a single break.

Rafa denied a break point at 1-1 with an unreturned serve, staying on the positive side before facing more issues at 2-2. The Briton converted the second break point with a backhand down the line winner, moving in front and closer to the finish line.

Cameron saved two break points in the sixth game and held with a winner at the net to open a 4-2 advantage. Rafa held at 15 in game seven, remaining within one break deficit and hoping for more return chances. Norrie sprayed a forehand error at 4-3 and offered Nadal a break point.

The Briton erased it with a forehand winner and landed a backhand winner for 5-3. Rafa held at 30 in game nine, and Cameron served for the victory. Norrie earned three match points in game ten with a smash winner and seized the first with a forehand down the line winner at the net, celebrating his first victory over Nadal from five duels.

Rafael Nadal Cameron Norrie