After ten straight defeats at the hands of Rafael Nadal, Nicolas Almagro found his game and his nerve to beat the World No. 1 on the clay at the Conde de Godó in Barcelona, while Nadal continues to struggle with his form and confidence. Nadal broke Almagro in the first game of the first set, but was broken straight back. However, Rafa broke twice more to take the first comfortably, 6-2.
In the second set, Nadal seemed to be finding his form, but failed to convert several break chances. In the tiebreak, it was Almagro who prevailed to take only his third set off Nadal in the history of their head-to-head.
Rafa started strong in the third, going up 3-1, before Almagro won three consecutive games. Nadal broke back in the eighth game, evening things up at 4-4. It seemed he had regained control of the match, however Almagro immediately broke back at love, going up 5-4. Serving for the match, he quickly went down 15-40, but Nadal failed to convert both break points. The situation got tricky when Nadal saved the first match point, but a determined Almagro won it on his second, closing out the match 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.
It was the World No. 1’s second clay-court loss in a week, following his defeat to Ferrer in Monte Carlo. It was the first time he has lost in Barcelona since 2003. After losing in the quarterfinals in two consecutive tournaments which he has won eight times each, many questions now surround his ability to defend Roland Garros.
Cover Photo (Creative Commons License): Marianne Bevis