No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal insisted it wasn't easy against Alexei Popyrin though he made it past the rising Australian star in straight sets at the Madrid Masters. Nadal, ranked at No. 2 in the world, handed a 6-3 6-3 loss to recent Singapore champion Popyrin.
Nadal lost his serve once in the first set but claimed three breaks to easily win the opener. Nadal then broke Popyrin in the second game of the second set and held on to his serve the rest of the way to book a straight-set win.
"It was difficult. The court today was slippery, it was very fast, very dry conditions. The ball was flying a lot. The beginning of the match was super tough," Nadal said in his on-court interview. "He was hitting every ball and hitting the spots.
Very happy with the victory. It was an important victory, he came here playing well. Every match is tough." Nadal was satisfied with his performance against Popyrin. "I think I was doing things well, even if it was difficult to play against a player like him, [since] he was trying to hit every single ball," Nadal said.
"He was hitting every ball hard. I needed to adapt and I think I did that well."
Nadal praised Popyrin
"Yesterday he played against Sinner and he beat Jannik, so maximum respect," Nadal said. "He has a big potential, honestly."
Elsewhere, world No. 4 Dominic Thiem handed a 7-6 (7) 6-4 loss to Alex de Minaur. “There were many long rallies, [which is] exactly what I need right now,” Thiem said in his post-match interview. “I am very, very happy again with my performance… It was nice.
I love the conditions, the court and the tournament”. Thiem plays next against John Isner. “I feel way better than expected. In some points and some rallies, I still feel the lack of matches,” Thiem said. “I am a little bit more out of breath, I am a little bit too tight in some shots and some strokes.
“Everything has to be a little more relaxed again to be in the match mode. I lost a little bit of intensity after winning that close first set. I have to get back in a rhythm, but the more matches I play against these top guys, the quicker I will get back in the match rhythm I need”.