Rafael Nadal hits the ninety-first title in the ATP Tour at the ATP 500 in Acapulco, and points Ivan Lendl, three points away, but also writes five hundred and three next to the line of successes on the hard-courts. Better since 1973 only Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic and of course Roger Federer.
At the age of thirty-six, with his sights firmly planted on the twenty-second Slam seal on his beloved Parisian land, the very Spanish champion is still wearing the clothes of the man to beat. After a practically perfect tournament (embellished by the 6-3 6-3 against the new world number one) the number three of the group overtakes in the final with an extraordinarily ordinary performance Cameron Norrie, executioner of Stefanos Tsitsipas and now close to entry between the top ten players in the world.
Despite some difficulties in the heart of the second set, and a small empty pass in the final, the Spanish phenomenon packs the final 6-4 6-4 in just under two hours of play and also regains the fourth position in the ranking.
The third one occupied by Alexander Zverev is exactly one thousand points away. Except for particular twists, he should only stop at Indian Wells before the season on red. The business card? A splendid backhand solution on the line.
Nadal, who still struggles to fuel and even needs to ask for the support of the short ball at 30-30 in the first round to avoid trouble, delivers the decisive push in the fifth game. Also thanks to a lucky tape at 15-15 and a rather trivial mistake by the British tennis player, who without a clear plan even throws himself at the net at 30-40.
The Spaniard again closes the problems at 30-30 with a surgical backhand drop-shot (in the eighth game) and keeps the last serving without particular difficulties. Nadal faces 0-30 even at the start of the second. And thanks to a splendid passer-by at 30-30 (prelude to the break) he puts his head forward.
Called to keep a set and a break advantage, for the first - and only - time in the match he gets distracted. He recovers, yes, from a 0-40 situation in the immediately following game, but misses a rather comfortable forehand on the first tie and does not contain the splendid backhand response from the British.
Forced as per protocol to a game that is too fast and too expensive. Having overcome the difficulties, Nadal harpoons the break-game at 3-2 and strengthens the advantage even near the finish line. Norrie, who has a surge of pride at 2-5 and who with the service also cancels a 0-30 disadvantage at 3-5, keeps her concentration high and closes at the first useful match point at 5-4.
Rafael Nadal words after the success in Mexico: "During my professional career there are many tournaments that have left an important mark, I have incredible memories of this place. I have had excellent results here, I have won four times and I trust that it is a place where people have good memories of me, when they will no longer be able to play tennis.
When this dream is over, I will carry Acapulco in my heart." On the match: "It wasn't my best match of the tournament, far from it, but looking on the bright side I won in two sets against one of the fittest players on the circuit right now.
This means that my level of tennis is still very high and that I can compete with the best." "Norrie makes you feel that you cannot play comfortably at any time, that you have to stay on tiptoe until the end of the challenge.
It is a prestigious victory. My serve worked very well and apart from a few things like the closing time of the match, I played in many stages as a champion, because it was a final and sometimes you have to find the right moments to give the coup de grace, win and exploit my opponent's mistakes."