World no. 1 Rafael Nadal is also three from three in 2020, having to work hard to beat Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6, 6-4 in grueling two hours and seven minutes. With an incredible quickness and defense, Nishioka was there to challenge the 19-time Major champion all the time, going for his shots and breaking Rafa twice before falling in straight sets.
Rafa had to save six out of eight break chances to stay competitive against a determined rival, finding his best tennis in the crucial moments to prevail and add more points to his tally. The encounter kicked off with four powerful holds before Nishioka stepped in to clinch a break with a backhand down the line winner in game five.
Rafa broke back in the very next game after a well-constructed attack, only to lose serve again at 4-4 when his backhand landed long. Serving for the set, a left-handed Japanese got broken at love, keeping Nadal alive and allowing him to take the tie break 7-4 after three mini-breaks, 66 minutes since the beginning of the clash.
Rafa had to dig deep at 2-3 in set number two, repelling three break chances and earning a break at 4-4 with back-to-back winners, adding three more in the next game to cross the finish line and celebrate the victory. "It was the first experience with the heat here in Australia, so we played under heavy conditions and it was tough," he said.
"I played against a player who has started the season on fire, so it was an important victory for me and the team."