Rafael Nadal has safely moved through to the third round in Madrid after defeating Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr 6-4, 6-3 in 1 hour 26 minutes. Alexandr Dolgopolov made it through the qualifying rounds, taking down Andreas Seppi in the first round before setting up a meeting with Spain’s golden child, Rafael Nadal. Nadal’s opponent, a 21 year former gymnast, who used a headband to control his long hair, hasn’t ever contested a Grand Slam and predominantly plays challenger events, and without doubt, was the underdog of the match.
Nadal looked a little sub-par as Dolgopolov took his opening service game. The Spanish superstar was then forced to wait for the crowd to settle after Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane made a late entrance, just in time to watch Nadal’s first service game.
Dolgopolov struggled to keep the ball in the lines, pushing for more than he would normally have to, trying to substitute for his weak serve, characterized by an interesting motion that no doubt puts enormous strain on his knees. He couldn’t fight Rafa off for long, and Nadal took an early 2-1 lead.
The sometimes ugly forehand of the Ukrainian looked, at times, to be a considerable effort on his wrist, and generally ineffective against the worlds best clay court player. A few messy shots from Nadal and some excellent drop shots allowed Dolgopolov to stay close, holding to love to force Rafa to serve for the set at 5-4. Nadal did so.
The Spaniard, still sporting the blue he’s worn all clay court season, also had a strange white patch on his right knee – however, he seemed untroubled by it, merely a little rusty, but still looking bulkier in the chest and arms than he had the end of last year.
It wasn’t the best Nadal has looked but he got the job done and for Alexandr it was a lesson in how to play on clay that he’s not likely to forget. To his credit Dolgopolov did a good job of staying with Nadal and putting up a fight, saving one match point in the process.