2023 In Review: Rafael Nadal falls to Alex de Minaur

Rafael Nadal failed to score a win at the United Cup at the start of the season

by Jovica Ilic
2023 In Review: Rafael Nadal falls to Alex de Minaur
© Brendon Thorne / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

World no. 2 Rafael Nadal left the United Cup with two defeats despite leading in both matches! Following the Cameron Norrie loss, Rafa fell to Alex de Minaur 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in Syndey in two hours and 42 minutes. Thus, the Spaniard lost the opening two ATP matches of the season for the first time in a career, falling to Alex for the first time in four duels.

The veteran gave his best in the final set after being outplayed in the second. Nadal pulled the break back before playing a terrible game at 5-5. Rafa hit a loose forehand in the encounter's fifth game, losing serve and falling 3-2 behind.

Alex could not cement the lead in the next one, missing a game point and losing serve after a volley error, bringing the legend back to 3-3. Nadal held at love for 4-3 and bounced back from 0-40 in the next one, earning his second consecutive break and moving 5-3 in front after de Minaur's wild forehand.

Rafa served for the opener in game nine and cracked a backhand crosscourt winner for a set point. He seized it with a service winner for 6-3 after 46 minutes.

Alex de Minaur scored his first victory over Rafael Nadal in Sydney.

The second set offered numerous deuces, going for over 50 minutes despite only seven games.

The home star grabbed three consecutive breaks, taking the set 6-1 and gaining a boost. Nadal broke with a superb backhand in the first game, extending his streak and looking good to bring the victory home. Instead, he wasted a game point at 1-0, allowing Alex to seize the fourth break point with a backhand crosscourt winner.

The Aussie landed another backhand winner on his fourth break chance at 2-1, delivering another break and moving 3-1 in front. Alex saved a break point in game five and extended his advantage. Rafa sprayed a forehand error at 1-4, getting broken again and allowing his rival to serve for the set.

Nadal squandered three break points in game seven, and de Minaur clinched the set with a powerful backhand attack, forcing a decider after an hour and 41 minutes. The Aussie had to dig deep at the beginning of the second set, defending four break points in game two and delivering a vital hold for 1-1.

Nadal netted a backhand in the fifth game, losing serve at 15 and falling behind. However, the Spaniard kept fighting and fired a forehand winner in game six to pull the break back and lock the result at 3-3. Rafa held at love in game nine, and Alex responded with a nice hold that kept him alive.

Nadal played a terrible game at 5-5, losing serve at love after a forehand error and sending de Minaur in front. The Sydney native served for the triumph at 6-5 and fired a service winner for a hold at love and his first victory over a 22-time Major winner.

Rafael Nadal Alex De Minaur