'Rafael Nadal could lack rhythm at the beginning of the season,' says Aussie legend

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'Rafael Nadal could lack rhythm at the beginning of the season,' says Aussie legend

World no. 2 Rafael Nadal will kick off the new season at the ATP Cup in Melbourne on February 2 against Alex de Minaur. John Newcombe believes that Alex has to be aggressive and make the rallies as short as possible. Also, the Aussie legend assumes that Rafa could lack the rhythm at this stage of the season, which is another element that Alex should use to defeat him.

De Minaur kicked off the season with the Antalya title, while Nadal played one match in Adelaide against Dominic Thiem, beating him 7-5, 6-4. In their previous encounter at the last year's ATP Cup, Nadal had to dig deep to prevail against the youngster, beating him 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 to propel Spain into the final.

De Minaur stayed on level terms with Rafa for some 100 minutes before the Spaniard took charge to bring the victory home. Alex grabbed two breaks from three chances and gave serve away four times, thrice in the decider.

Rafael Nadal will face Alex de Minaur on February 2.

Nadal made a shaky start and got broken at 15 in the first game after a forehand error.

Rafa got his name on the scoreboard with a forehand winner in game three and held at love at 1-3 to remain within one break deficit. From 30-0 down, de Minaur won four straight points in the eighth game and closed it with a forehand down the line winner before earning a set point on the return at 5-3.

Nadal saved it but had to hand the set to his opponent when Alex landed a forehand winner for a hold at love and 6-4. Having to raise his level against an inspired rival, Rafa dropped only six points behind the initial shot in set number two and kept the pressure on the other side.

De Minaur followed that pace until game 12 when Nadal finally grabbed his first break, taking the set and stealing momentum ahead of the decider. Riding on that wave, the more experienced player grabbed 14 of the deciding set's opening 15 points and seized three straight return games to break Alex's resistance.

"Under normal circumstances, it would be tough to beat Rafa. Still, he could lack rhythm at the beginning of the season. Perhaps it is a good opportunity for Alex, although he lacks weapons to play aggressive all the time and shorten the rallies," John Newcombe said.