In one of the most exciting third round matches of the 2017 Miami Open presented by Itaú, the 5th seed Rafael Nadal met Philipp Kohlschreiber, seeded 26th. The Spaniard came through in exactly 100 minutes 0-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The German had an unremarkable start to the year, caught a glimpse of good form in Dubai where he had the eventual winner of the tournament Andy Murray on the ropes in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, Kohlschreiber lost the match after missing seven match points in the second set tie-break. In the Miami Open second round, Kohlschreiber was on the verge of losing to next-gen star Taylor Fritz but managed to come back from 1-5 in the final set.
Rafael Nadal seems to have regained a bit of the form from the times when he was dominating the tour. He hasn’t won any titles yet, but two finals; at the Australian Open and Acapulco with other solid showings make him the number two in the race rankings and a contender for the ATP World Tour Finals. So far in Miami he has defeated Dudi Sela, despite having some troubles, due to really windy conditions.
Since 2007, they have met 14 times on the main tour, with the Spaniard winning 13 meetings. Before this match, Nadal was a perfect 7-0 against Kohlschreiber on hard courts. This doesn’t look so one-sided when we take a closer look at these matches, as only one of them was finished in straight sets. The German’s lone victory over Nadal took place on his home soil, on the grass courts in Halle.
Kohlschreiber took advantage of Nadal being a little rusty in the beginning and broke the Spaniard’s serve in the first game. Then Kohlschreiber had to fend off two break points, which he did, thanks to some extremely risky forehands that found the line. One break was not satisfactory for the German and he actually broke once again owing to some amazing returns from the backhand side and went up 3-0. Clearly, it was Kohlschreiber’s tactic to actually go-for-broke on every single return and it was all working perfectly, resulting in the third break of the set. He then held his serve to make Nadal “eat” his first bagel since the 2015 Australian Open. Despite going all-in on the return, Kohlschreiber made 84 percent of returns and won double the amount of points that Nadal did.
Nadal didn’t let Kohlschreiber get to such a start in the second set however. He kept his serve for the first time in the match, winning the game point with an unbelievable forehand passing shot. Nadal then started winning his service games on a regular basis, while it was the German who had troubles. He saved a break point at 1-2, but at 2-3 he missed a pretty routine backhand and handed Nadal the break. Kohlschreiber stopped painting the lines and he was unable to deal with the Spaniard’s more aggressive approach. Nadal broke again with the German serving to stay in the set and took it 6-2.
Kohlschreiber was put under a lot of pressure in the second game of the third set, and he was actually broken on the second chance. He looked disappointed and resigned, as Nadal finally found his rhythm and was getting more sharp and consistent with each point. The break was enough for the Spaniard to win the match, as both players kept their serves up until the end of the match.
Kohlschreiber generated a lot of trouble for Nadal, just like he always did on hard courts. The first set was the best 30 minutes of the German’s life probably, but he couldn’t keep that level up and for long. His decline left a little space for Nadal to comeback and the 14-time Grand Slam champion took that chance. Next up awaits Nicolas Mahut, who already had his best week of the year so far. However, he should be far less dangerous for Nadal than Philipp Kohlschreiber.
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