Competing for the first time since withdrawing from Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal experienced an early loss in Cincinnati last week. Rafa fell to an eventual champion Borna Coric 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 51 minutes in the second round.
The Spaniard missed his chances in the opener and suffered a break in the decider to hit the exit door and experience his earliest loss in almost six years! Rafa struggled with a wrist injury in the closing stages of 2016, suffering an early US Open loss and playing only four matches in the rest of the season.
Nadal lost to Viktor Troicki in the Shanghai Masters second round and terminated his season, preparing for a stellar run in 2017. That Troicki loss had been Rafa’s earliest until the last week, never hitting an exit door in the first match for almost six years before Borna ended that streak in Ohio.
There were only three break chances in the entire encounter, and the rivals grabbed one return game in sets two and three.
Rafael Nadal experienced his earliest loss in almost six years in Cincinnati.
Coric and Nadal served well until game seven when Borna hit a smash winner and earned a break chance.
Nadal saved it and held to remain on the positive side. The rain sent them off the court in the tenth game, and they returned 80 minutes later. The set went down to the wire and turned into an absolute cracker. Rafa came back from 4-2 down and grabbed three straight points for 5-4.
He earned the first set point at 6-5 but failed to convert it on his serve. Borna saved the second set point at 6-7 and created his first set point at 8-7. Nadal saved it with a forced error and denied the second to lock the result at 9-9 and his chances.
Rafa hit an expensive double fault at 9-10 to lose the opener after an hour and 14 minutes! The Spaniard served well in the second set and awaited an opportunity on the return. It came at 3-3, and he captured it after Coric’s loose forehand.
Nadal moved 5-3 up with a winner at the net and closed the set with another at 5-4 to force a decider after two hours and six minutes. Both players served under 50% in the final set and still lost only 11 points in service games.
Coric produced five comfortable holds and kept the pressure on the other side. The Croat forced Nadal’s forehand mistake at 3-2 for two break chances. Rafa played another loose forehand to get broken and fall 4-2 behind. Borna served for the victory in game nine and held with a forehand crosscourt forehand to seal the deal and gain a massive boost that carried him towards the title.