Rafael Nadal has proved today that not only is he feeling rested but that his knees are also feeling just fine after confidently overcoming Kevin Anderson 6-2, 7-6. Anderson commendably tried to work Nadal around the court and keep points short by coming to then net but ultimately the Spaniard was too strong. Rafa shook off the rust after his match against Wawrinka and produced the aggressive play we’ve seen from him this year by standing on or inside the baseline for many of his returns, refusing to be pushed back into a defensive position by the enormous Anderson serve.
Both Nadal and Anderson opened with convincing service games, with the huge serving South African giant sending serves down regularly in excess of 215kmph. Nadal pushed hard in the third game, eventually finding his way to break point which he converted with a beautiful off balance backhand in the mid court after a back and forth net tussle with Anderson.
In the seventh game with Anderson serving, the South African was given a lesson about the perils of coming into the net on Nadal’s backhand as the Spaniard easily changed the ball direction, pummeling it just out of Anderson’s reach down the line. After a brilliant precision lob from the Spaniard that brought up double break point, Anderson stepped up and produced some smart play to fight back but an error at the net and a forehand passing shot winner from Nadal put the world number one ahead 5-2.
In the fifth game of the second set Anderson was forced to fend off triple break point after Kevin again made an approach shot to Nadal’s backhand that was handily dealt with but he couldn’t hold out for long. Nadal struck early just like he had in the first set.
Anderson suddenly started working Nadal’s forehand – so well in fact that he broke back to level the set at 4-4 before holding confidently for a 5-4 lead.
In the tie break Nadal raced to a 3-0 lead before Anderson worked his serve and Nadal’s forehand to get within reach at 3-2. An incredible half volley was just far enough out of Anderson’s reach that Nadal extended his lead to 5-3. A huge forehand from the South African save a match point at 6-5 but the phenomenal forehand of Rafa gave him another chance, this time on his serve. When Anderson pushed the ball long, fireworks went off to signal the end of play after an hour and 42 minutes.
When he spoke to the media after the match Nadal said he was happy with his level of play. “Seemed like I had the match under control in the second, 4-2, but I had two mistakes with my forehand, and he played two good points. And after that was really tough second set, no? But I am very happy how I played, especially the first set. It was very good.”