Nadal Edges Nalbandian in the Middle of the Night

by John on March 19, 2009

The fourth round matchup between No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal and nemisis David Nalbandian at the BNP Paribas Open lived up to its advanced billing.  Nadal saved five match points to complete a stunning 3-6, 7-6, 6-0 comeback victory over his good friend early Thursday morning in Indian Wells. With the schedule backed up due to two prior three-set matches, Nalbandian and Nadal began play shortly after 11 p.m. Nalbandian had not dropped a set in their previous two matches back in 2007 and seemed poised to defeat the Spaniard in straight-sets once again. From the get-go, the No. 14-ranked Argentine crushed his forehand, answered everything Nadal threw at him, broke once, and served out the first set at 6-3. The second set featured some of the most scintilating shot making ever seen with both players hitting with incredible pace and creating unimaginable angles from the baseline. After breaking to take a 3-2 lead, Nalbandian held twice to 5-3 and then saw Nadal fend off four match points in the ninth game. The Argentine served at 5-4, got another match point, which Nadal saved, and then was broken for 5-5. Both held to force a tiebreaker. Nadal prevailed 7-5 after racing to a 5-1 lead, but Nalbandian saved two set points before succumbing to a tough kicking serve from Nadal, which he returned long. Finally, Nalbandian cracked in the third set, and Nadal ran through him in less than half an hour, ending the riveting classic at 2:01 a.m. “I was lucky,” Nadal said. “I didn’t go into the match with the best mentality. I didn’t have a clear idea how to play him, probably because I lost the last two matches against him. I have to play my game, and I didn’t. I had a big save today.”

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