'Rafael Nadal didn't do much, I gifted him the victory,' says Alexei Popyrin

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'Rafael Nadal didn't do much, I gifted him the victory,' says Alexei Popyrin

In just over four months of the new season, Alexei Popyrin claimed as many victories on the Tour as in the entire career before 2021, setting high goals in the rest of the year. Last week in Madrid, the Aussie defeated the top-20 star Jannik Sinner in the second round to set the thrilling clash against the 20-time Major winner Rafael Nadal.

Ready to impose his strokes at any cost, Alexei threw everything he had on Rafa, staying aggressive from start to finish and overpowering the king of clay. Nadal opted for a more moderate performance, not following the opponent's 20 winners and unforced errors and still doing enough to score a 6-3, 6-3 triumph in 79 minutes.

After the match, Popyrin said that Nadal didn't do much on the court and that he pretty much gifted him the victory with too many errors. Rafa saved five out of six break chances and stole the rival's serve four times to forge a crucial difference.

Alexei Popyrin had the upper hand against Rafael Nadal in a 6-3, 6-3 loss.

Eager to show his best tennis, Alexei grabbed the opening seven points and earned three break chances in game two. Rafa saved those and secured a break in the next one to forge the advantage.

Nadal secured another break in game five, lost serve a few minutes later and completed the set with his third break at 5-3. The Spaniard dictated the pace with his forehand early in the second set to forge an early advantage and open a 4-1 lead, moving closer to the finish line.

Popyrin served great in the rest of the clash but had no chance to pull the break back, as Rafa held at 15 in game nine to move over the top. "Oh, that's really great. It's put a smile on my face right now, hearing such great words from Nadal.

It's a privilege to compete against a player like him, and get complimented by him is an even bigger one. I'm grateful, and hopefully, I can test him a bit more the next time we play - because I'm sure there will be the next time.

Rafa didn't do anything special throughout the match, but in the middle of the first set, I thought I had to do more than I did, and that caused mistakes to come. I kind of gifted him the match - but I chalk this down to experience.

I'll learn from it; he's one of the greatest of all time. You can see straight away after I won those first seven points, he completely changed his tactics straight away, hitting loopy balls to the backhand, trying to pressure me - and it worked for him.

Next time we play, I won't fall into that trap, and I'll focus on what I have to do and try not to blast him off the court with every single shot. I learned I shouldn't be scared to rally with him," Alexei Popyrin said.