Rafael Nadal vs. Alex de Minaur - Ongoing rivalry

Rafael Nadal and Alex de Minaur are battling for the fifth time in Barcelona

by Jovica Ilic
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Rafael Nadal vs. Alex de Minaur - Ongoing rivalry
© Cameron Spencer / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal and Alex de Minaur are playing their fifth duel in the second round of the Barcelona Open. Rafa defeated Alex in the opening three encounters, two times at Majors before the Aussie celebrated in their most recent duel at last year's United Cup.

Nadal and de Minaur are playing on clay for the first time, and the Aussie has to be the favorite against the king of clay, who is playing only his fifth match of the season following injuries and setbacks. Nadal and de Minaur met for the first time in the third round at Wimbledon 2018.

World no. 1 ousted a teenager 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and two minutes, sailing into the last 16 for the eighth time at the All England Club. Nadal made a furious start and overpowered his opponent in the third set, celebrating his 240th victory at Majors.

De Minaur played in the junior Wimbledon final but could not match Nadal's level despite scoring two wins and playing in the last 32 at Majors for the first time.

Rafael Nadal, ATP Cup 2022© Cameron Spencer / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafa grabbed over 40% of the return points, delivering five breaks from 12 chances and controlling the scoreboard.

Despite serving at 57%, Nadal dropped only 19 points in his games, defending all three break points and keeping the pressure on his young opponent. The Spaniard scored an early break in the opener and held in game five for 4-1.

Rafa grabbed another return game for 5-1 and held in the next one after Alex's forehand error, rattling off six straight games and making a reliable start. De Minaur produced two holds at the beginning of the second set, already doing better than in the opener.

Nadal stepped in on the return in the fifth game, delivering a break and moving in front. The more experienced player extended the lead with another break in game seven and held at 5-2, clinching five straight games and moving closer to the finish line.

They stayed close to each other at the beginning of the third set before Rafa secured a break in the fifth game.

Rafael Nadal, Australian Open 2019© Quinn Rooney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal and Alex de Minaur are playing their fifth duel in Barcelona.

The Spaniard held for 4-2 and closed the eighth game at 15 with a volley winner, forcing the Aussie to serve to stay in the match. De Minaur closed the ninth game and prolonged the action with a forehand winner at 4-5. However, Nadal seized a match point with a crafty volley winner, moving over the top and sending the young gun packing.

Half a year later, they met in the Australian Open third round. Nadal took down the home favorite 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 22 minutes, mirroring the Wimbledon result and sailing through. Thus, the Spaniard celebrated his 250th Major victory, achieving a notable milestone and remaining on the title course.

Like at Wimbledon, Nadal kept everything under control behind the initial shot, saving all four break points and mounting the pressure on the other side, finishing the duel with 37 winners and 33 unforced errors.

Alex de Minaur, Australian Open 2019© Quinn Rooney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafa took charge on the return and seized five out of 13 break points, leaving his opponent behind in the opening two sets and moving over the top with a single break in the third.

The Spaniard broke at 15 in the fourth game of the match and grabbed another return game in game six. Nadal produced a fine hold in game seven, forging a 6-1 lead after 40 minutes. The Spaniard converted the fifth break point in the first game of the second set and served well, keeping the pressure on the Aussie.

Rafa broke at love in game five to extend the gap before defending three break points at 5-2, wrapping up the set and moving closer to the finish line after an hour and 28 minutes. Nadal grabbed a break at the beginning of the third set with a deep return, which would carry him over the top.

They served well in the upcoming games, with de Minaur raising his level and following the rival's pace. However, Rafa fired five winners while serving for the win at 5-4, moving over the top after three deuces and staying undefeated against Alex.

Their third duel came a year later at the 2020 ATP Cup. De Minaur won his first set against Nadal in front of the home fans at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney but suffered a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 loss in two hours and 13 minutes. Alex pushed Rafa to the limits in the opening two sets, failing to reach the finish line and fading from the court in the decider.

Nadal lost serve two times from three chances offered to de Minaur and stole the rival's serve four times, only once in the opening two sets! Alex clinched a break in the first game of the match, his first against Rafa, and served well in all five games, landing a forehand down the line winner at 5-4 for an early advantage.

Nadal dropped only six points behind the initial shot in the second set and kept the pressure on de Minaur.

Alex de Minaur, United Cup 2023© Brendon Thorne / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

The Spaniard created his first break chance at 6-5, converting it and forcing a decider after a massive battle.

Rafa gained an enormous boost and rattled off 14 of the first 15 points of the final set. The Spaniard delivered three breaks and emerged at the top in style, sending his country into the final. Rafa and Alex met for the fourth time at last year's United Cup in Sydney.

Unlike three years ago, de Minaur stayed focused in front of the partisan crowd and defeated world no. 2 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in two hours and 43 minutes, celebrating his first victory over Nadal from four encounters. Struggling with an injury in the second part of 2022, Rafa suffered his second straight loss after winning the opening set, falling in the decisive moments and sending his rival over the top.

Nadal erased the deficit in the final set before playing a terrible service game at 5-5 that cost him dearly. They created 25 break points, and de Minaur prevailed in the pivotal moments, stealing Nadal's serve six times.

Rafael Nadal Alex De Minaur
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