(AP) – Rafael Nadal got through another young opponent and showed signs he was getting closer to his best form on clay as he defeated Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-3 to make it to the Madrid Open quarterfinals on Thursday.
Rafa overcame eight aces and saved five break points against the Australian. The five-time Madrid champion cruised past Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the second round on Wednesday.
Rafa struggled at times against the aggressive style of the 76th-ranked Popyrin but was able to stay in control for most of the match on the Magic Box centre court.
After the match, Rafa said:
“It was difficult. The court today was slippery, very fast, very dry conditions. The ball was flying a lot, so beginning of the match was super tough. He was hitting every ball, and hitting the spots. So, very happy with the victory, an important victory. He came here playing well. Every match is tough.
“Yesterday he played against Sinner and he beat Jannik, so massive amount of respect. He has a big potential honestly. Later, I think I had – more or less – the match under control. If we can say like this, against a player like him. But I was comfortable on the score. I think I was doing things well, even if it was difficult to play against a player that was trying to hit every single ball. He was hitting every ball hard, so I needed to adapt and I think I did it well.”
The 20-time major winner will play either Alexander Zverev or Dan Evans in the quarter-finals.