After a nasty defeat in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 against Andrey Rublev, Rafael Nadal struggled more than expected in the second round of the ATP 500 tournament in Barcelona, an event that the Majorcan has already won 11 times in his career.
Ilya Ivashka, current world number 111, broke Nadal in the first game of the match and canceled the ball against the break, thanks to the opponent's poorly calibrated drop shot, before climbing 2-0. Neither player then managed to win other chances in response until the game that allowed the Belarusian player to break Nadal for the second time and close the set at 6-3.
The last partial lost by the 20-time Grand Slam champion on clay against a player outside the top 100 dates back to 2013. In the second set, Nadal immediately set the record straight by winning two games in a row and significantly raising the bar.
Ivashka could not keep up with Nadal and only won two games. In the third and decisive set, Ivashka returned to put Nadal in difficulty and held the serve until 3-3, when the Spaniard forced him to run from one side of the field to the other and systematically lose control of the exchanges.
Thanks to the break obtained in the seventh game, Nadal had the opportunity to serve for the match; opportunities that he did not miss. At the Belgrade ATP event, 18 times winner of Grand Slam titles Novak Djokovic did not struggle but rather dispensed gems of his talent by winning in an hour and ten minutes of play against Korean Kwon Soonwoo.
No problem for the Serbian who does not concede, he removed a break point in the final stages of the match, and seems a distant relative of Nole who gave up against Evans in Monte Carlo.
Belgrade and Stuttgart
The Serb still appeared out of condition playing on clay but he grew up and played an excellent match today.
In the next round he will face compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the quarter-finals and thus found the Serbian derby he wanted, given the tournament at home. The young Serbian struggled more than expected and won in three sets against Frenchman Rinderknech.
The host won the first set 6-3, lost the second undergoing a great comeback from the transalpine but then won the third set with the same result, closing after an hour and 43 minutes of play. At the WTA in Stuttgart, Sofia Kenin immediately eliminated by Anett Kontaveit eliminates Sonia Kenin on her debut, while Ashleigh Barty and Petra Kvitova are already in the quarter-finals.
Here are the words of World no.1 in the press conference: "I have never played in conditions similar to those found here in Stuttgart, it is quite different from outdoor clay, rather fast, and you are rewarded when you hit the first of flat serve, which is quite unusual on some clay courts.
The barren conditions are quite unusual, and the feel of the feet is also different, probably due to the fact that the earth is arranged on wooden planks. I believe that when we move to Madrid and Rome will find conditions increasingly similar to those that will exist in Paris.
" In the other matches, victory for Karolina Pliskova against German lucky loser Tamara Korpatsch for 7-5 3-6 6-3. Jelena Ostapenko won in two sets of the qualified Stefanie Voegele for 6-4 7-5. Angelique Kerber beat lucky loser Georgiana Gorgodze 6-2 6-2, Marketa Vondrousova won by 6-1 7-6 (6) over Marie Bouzkova.