Rafael Nadal Laments: 'I Could Have Won'

Rafael Nadal squandered three match points versus Jordan Thompson in Brisbane

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal Laments: 'I Could Have Won'
© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal made his long-awaited comeback in Brisbane, competing for the first time in almost a year. Rafa passed the opening two rounds before experiencing a massive blow in the quarter-final, squandering three match points versus Jordan Thompson.

Nadal and Thompson battled for three hours and 25 minutes, and the Aussie prevailed 5-7, 7-6, 6-3, fending off those match points in the second set's closing stages and outplaying a 22-time Major winner in the third. Rafa congratulated Jordan while mentioning his chances and the fact he could have won, missing a routine forehand on one of his match points.

Nadal claimed one point more than Thompson, although not the crucial ones. The Spaniard struggled behind the second serve and offered his rival only three break points. Thompson grabbed two breaks and defended six out of eight break points, facing none in the decider.

Rafa had the advantage in the shortest and most advanced rallies, and Jordan erased that deficit in the mid-range ones. Nadal felt the pain around his hip following a massive struggle, hoping it was nothing serious. They embraced a titanic battle right from the start, with the opening set lasting 70 minutes.

Rafa held in the encounter's first game with a service winner, and Jordan followed that pace in game two for 1-1. Nadal served well in the third game, cracking a forehand down the line winner and looking sharp as in the previous two duels.

Thompson reached 2-2 after Nadal's wild forehand and returned from 0-40 in game five to grab deuce. The Spaniard stayed focused and held for a 3-2 advantage. The Aussie worked hard in the sixth game, holding after three deuces and locking the result at 3-3 after the Spaniard's loose forehand.

Rafa experienced a setback in the seventh game, getting broken despite three game points. Jordan fought well and earned a break point after drawing Rafa's forehand error. Nadal netted a backhand to lose serve and fall 4-3 behind.

Rafael Nadal, Brisbane 2024© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

The Spaniard remained composed and pulled the break back in style a few minutes later thanks to a running forehand crosscourt winner. Thus, they leveled the score at 4-4 after 47 minutes, heading toward a marathon.

The ninth game brought deuces, and Thompson failed to create more break chances. Rafa held after Jordan's forehand mistake, opening a 5-4 advantage and keeping the pressure on the other side. The Aussie felt none of it, landing a forehand crosscourt winner for a hold at love in game ten for 5-5 and more drama.

Nadal experienced deuce for the fourth straight time on his serve in game 11, surviving and moving 6-5 in front after Thompson's forehand mistake. Jordan could not endure the pressure in the 12th game, spraying a backhand slice error and facing three set points.

Nadal converted the second, seizing the opener in 70 minutes and surviving a massive test. Jordan kept fighting, earning a break chance at 1-1 in the second set.

Rafael Nadal squandered three match points in Brisbane.

Rafa defended it after an extended rally and held after the rival's forehand error for 2-1.

The Aussie played a loose forehand in the fourth game, facing two break points. He saved them before experiencing the third after an extended rally. Thompson erased it with a forehand down the line winner, producing a massive hold and leveling the score at 2-2.

Not thinking about those chances too much, Nadal fired a service winner in the fifth game and held at 15 for 3-2. Thompson grabbed the sixth game after the rival's backhand error, and a 22-time Major winner produced a comfortable hold a few minutes later for 4-3.

Jordan refused to surrender, holding at love with an ace in game eight for 4-4 and more drama. Rafa made another charge in the ninth game holding at love with a rock-solid net coverage, forcing Jordan to serve to stay in the match.

The encounter could have been over in that tenth game, with Thompson spraying a forehand error and offering Nadal a match point. Rafa missed a behind-the-back volley at the net, and the error would cost him dearly. The home favorite fired a service winner, holding for 5-5 and extending the battle.

The 11th game reached deuce, and Nadal brought it home with a backhand crosscourt winner and Thompson's backhand error. Jordan served to stay in the match for the second time in game 12 and held at 15, introducing a tie break.

Nadal opened a 3-0 gap with two forehand winners, looking good to break the rival's resistance. Instead, Thompson claimed two points on the return, returning to the positive side. Rafa delivered another mini-break in the seventh point and forged a 5-3 lead with a service winner.

The Spaniard missed a smash in the ninth point before landing a volley winner for 6-4 and two match points. He missed the first and sprayed a massive forehand error on the second, bringing Jordan back to 6-6.

Rafael Nadal, Brisbane 2024© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

The Aussie moved 7-6 up with a volley winner at the net and seized a set point with a smash winner, forcing a decider after two hours and 34 minutes!

Thompson preserved more energy for the final set and earned a break chance at 2-1 in the decider with a backhand return winner. Jordan converted it with a forehand drive-volley winner, taking charge and riding on his momentum.

The Aussie grabbed the fifth game at love with a service winner, boosting his confidence. As was expected, Rafa felt the pain around his troubled hip following a massive effort, requiring a medical timeout and decreasing his chances.

However, he held at love in game six, staying in touch before Thompson produced a fine hold in the next one for 5-2. Rafa served to stay in the match in game eight and brought it home with a forehand winner. Jordan served for the triumph at 5-3 and grabbed an extended rally on a match point to start a massive celebration after almost three and a half hours.

"Today was a very difficult match. I could have won, but all the credit to Jordan Thompson for the victory," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Jordan Thompson