Rafa Nadal Vs Frances Tiafoe Australian Open Quarter Final Preview
Rafa Nadal had not played since the US Open entering this year’s Australian Open. The Spaniard was busy healing knee a injury, a task that has kept him occupied for long stretches of his career.
Usually, though, when Nadal is not recovering from one injury or another, he’s busy competing for slams, and he’s made quick work of that at this year’s Australian Open. James Duckworth, Matthew Ebden, Alex di Minaur and Tomas Berdych have all been dismissed, all in straights, and going into the business end of the slam Nadal has won the least (1 title in ’09), Nadal is as fresh as it gets, a fact his knees will be grateful for; his upcoming opponent not so.
Frances Tiafoe is up next. The American turned 21 on Sunday, but that milestone was a little overshadowed by a professional one, the American’s first fourth round Grand slam win earning his first quarter-final. The American upset Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov to get there.
Tiafoe won’t be keen to get on the Nadal unmerry go round of victims, but it’s hard, considering his inexperience, to not see him taking a seat on that less than, for Nadal’s recent rivals, ride.
For even if Tiafoe comes out playing great shot-making aggressive tennis, he still has two problems- breaking the Nadal serve and winning the mental battle should the match come down to the wire.
Nadal’s new service is working out well- he has faced 13 break points all tournament, and been broken twice, in his opening match versus Duckworth. That serve, shortened to spare his ankle, will give him some confidence he won’t aggravate his injury, and that lack of fear makes him even more dangerous.
As for the mental battle, this is Nadal in a slam quarter-final, his 37th, and so far he’s 29/36. With fresh legs, in-form, and facing a slam quarter final beau, Nadal is going to be feeling very confident if sets get tight, and will give Tiafoe his first real insight into what pressure at the top of men’s tennis feels like.
Tiafoe won’t be blamed if he can’t stand up to it. His performances so far suggest he’ll give it his best shot, and if he can do so on the big points, we could be in for an upset. And if he can’t, well there will be plenty more shots at the semis for Tiafoe in the future. For Nadal, that’s not quite the case, and with the draw opening up the way it has, it’s hard to see him letting this one pass.
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