PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal saves two match points in thrilling win against Lucas Pouille at China Open

Rafa Nadal came within a whisker of making an opening-round exit at the China Open on Tuesday as he was pushed to three sets by Frenchman Lucas Pouille before winning 4-6 7-6(6) 7-5.

The world number one, who was beaten by Pouille the last time they met at the 2016 U.S. Open, lost a close first set before saving two match points in a second-set tiebreak to level things up.

RafaΒ needed all his experience to keep Pouille at bay in the decider and the match looked to be heading for another tiebreak before he pounced to break Pouille’s serve for the first time to go 6-5 up in the third.

Our champ held his nerve to close out the match in clinical fashion after two hours and 31 minutes.

Source: Reuters

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19 thoughts on “PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal saves two match points in thrilling win against Lucas Pouille at China Open

  1. Elaine Crowder

    Rafa I didn’t see the match but you seemed to come out of it well.

    All the best for the next one.

    Love and prayers,

    AlaineXXSydneyXXAustraliaXX

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  2. YB

    I thought Rafa returned much closer to the baseline than usual in the match, especially the in last two sets. Why do people keep hopping on his return position? He stayed far back to return in the US Open final. He won, didn’t he?? His return style (bigger swing) is different than others, why should he always return close to the line? I appreciate the fact that he always tries to problem solving during the match. Also, we should give Pouille a lot of credit. He played lights-out tennis for majority of the match!

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    1. Absolutely right. Rafa changes his return place magnificently.
      We have no right to give this magnificent player some silly advise or comment .
      16 GS is the result. 30 ATP 1000 masters titles are another key point.
      Rafa knows what is good and Lucas was brilliant too.
      Rafa played very well but these first round matches are risky for all top players.
      Rafa’s has a lot of haters– i don’t know why. Unbevlievable.
      to me – Rafa is the supreme player and just tooooooo toooo great for Tennis itself.
      and so humble too.
      We can never say thanks to Rafa for the sheer pleasure & joy he has given us.
      Vamos Champ Rafa

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      1. Rainier

        “We have no right to give this magnificent player some silly advise or comment .”

        Would you that to Toni and Moya who has been convincing Rafa to return closer to the baseline? The press asked them about it and they have confirmed what our mere sofa fans have always thought multiple times.

        Toni’s interview after the USO:

        “For years I had a tennis discussion with him to ask him to hit the ball earlier, but he was telling me he was feeling the ball better being behind and I was showing him videos of Federer, Djokovic and Verdasco who hit the ball the way I was asking him to.

        Rafael was telling me that Steffi Graf did the same as him. And who was right? Well, Rafael was, because playing like that he was winning.

        But my criterion was not wrong either and I insisted that in the future he had to evolve and hit it earlier because it was better and easier.”

        Yep. No one denies Rafa is this great and that great. But there’ a difference between blind love and constructive criticism.

        I don’t know about you. But I don’t feel great watching Rafa have to scramble so hard on the majority of the point. It’s tough on his body and mind. It opens a lot of options for his opponent. It makes it easier for his opponents and harder for him.

        On clay it works – yeah, he’s the Clay Goat, I know; but that doesn’t change the fact that he still has to run a lot, almost always more than his opponent. Mind you, he’s not so young anymore; and he will always have a vulnerable knees and ankles.

        Off clay, everything becomes tougher even before the 1st serve is striked. The ball is quicker, stays much lower. There’re many big servers/hitters or “HC specialists” on tour. He’s not reading serve as well as he used to – maybe because of his nerves; or maybe because the tour is getting better and better on serve technique and disguise. He has a “reputation” of being vulnerable to big servers/hitters. And of course he’s “Oldal” now with a defensive game.

        All these things lead to the the simplest and most sensical solution, like Toni has been persuading him for years: Taking the ball earlier.

        That of course can’t be achieved by camping almost on the first row on return.

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    2. Rainier

      He didn’t return “much closer” to the baseline.

      The Beijing court is huge. There’s a lot of space behind the baseline for Rafa to run as he would like (or wouldn’t like).

      On serve of course he played closer to the baseline but that’s usual, nothing new, But mind you, since he played passive most of the time while Pouille was hitting fearlessly through the court, he was pushed further and further on a lot of points. Most often those points ended when Pouille missed a shot, forced or unforced error. But you get the point. Pouille made 47UEs in the match.

      On return though, Rafa was camping around the Beijing sign, not having a good read on Pouille serve, guessing it wrong and moved too early quite often – pretty much like the Muller and Isner matches. Either Pouille would make a ruthless 1-2 punch to finish off the point in a flash or push him back further and further in rallies, running him around mercilessly. Granted occasionally Rafa would hit a tasty counter and win the point, but those were few and far between.

      The USO final is another matter. More on that later. But the main point is: he won’t be able to afford this style of play much longer. It’s too taxing. I’m no one to talk, just an ardent fan who only wants the best for him. But maybe you can listen to Moya and Toni?

      Toni: “I insisted that in the future he had to evolve and hit it earlier because it was better and easier.”

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  3. TITA FERNANDEZ

    OMG its one of those games where you find yourself getting really nervous if he will get thru to win the match or not! I feel it takes time for Rafa to warm up therefore the long matches.I just pray for him and wish him lots of luck.I hope he remains healthy focused and on fire until he wins in the finals.Vamos Rafa God bless you!

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  4. Rainier

    Rafa was a bit lucky today when Pouille missed a sitter FH at 6-4 in the TB. He had been the better player overall. Much better player in the 1st set in fact. But after surviving the TB and getting himself back into the match, he woke up, cruising to all of his service games bar one and breaking Pouille at the most critical point to win the match in style.

    It was great to watch, the end of the match. But throughout the match there were obviously various problems he needs to fix.

    I have no doubt he will play better in the next round, having getting used to the changes in conditions and the ball and knowing that his “catchup” game is still working so far (save the Laver Cup). But to be able to be consistent on HC, he needs to fix that court position sooner better than later. There are so many players who can bully him on HC these days, it’s a bit frustrating to watch. Apparently Toni and Moya and practically everyone all insist on it, but he’s still not ready to step out of his comfort zone – the thing he was much more willing to do in the past, with great results.

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  5. Jean Sober

    Yes, this is the difference between the 2017 Rafa and the one of 2014, 2015 and 2016. He wins the tough, close matches more often again.

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  6. Positive thinker (India)

    Well earned match. Very impressive. Just take one day at a time, like you always do.
    Love you, Rafa always.πŸ’›πŸ’˜πŸ’•πŸ’–πŸ’žπŸ’ŸπŸ’šπŸ’“β€πŸŒΈπŸŒΎπŸŒ·πŸŒΊπŸŒΌπŸŒ»πŸ’›πŸ˜šπŸŒΉπŸ’œπŸ’—πŸ’”

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  7. Ana the biggest fan to Rafa

    Rafa well don vamossssssssssssssssssssssss remember this year is yours.good luck next much.πŸŽΎπŸŽΎπŸŽΎπŸŽΎπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έβ€οΈ

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