Rafael Nadal lost his first match during the South American tour. The 22-time Major champion lost to Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4 in Quito, experiencing his first defeat against the Norwegian after beating him in Buenos Aires and Belo Horizonte.
Situated almost 3,000 meters above sea level, Quito was one of the fastest tennis tournaments in the world while hosting the ATP event for four years. A couple of years later, tennis fans in the Ecuadorian capital had the opportunity to see two of the best players in the world.
Ruud played better in the fast conditions and beat his good friend in straight sets. Casper broke early in the first set and prevailed on his serve in the tenth game 6-4. Casper held the first game of the second set with a service winner, and Rafa clinched the second game with an ace to make it 1-1.
Ruud fired an ace to close out the third game, and Nadal responded with a forehand winner in the next to level the score at 2-2. The Roland Garros runner-up and the US Open runner-up went for a serve and volley combo in the fifth game before Rafa forced his opponent’s error a few minutes later for 3-3.
Game seven went to deuce, and Casper closed it out with two winners to stay ahead. A kid played a couple of points in place of Rafa, and the Spaniard fired a powerful forehand winner to close it out. Nadal served to stay in the set at 4-5 and added a forehand error to hand the victory to Ruud.
In his previous match in Belo Horizonte, Rafa won 7-6, 7-5 after playing better at crucial moments. Ruud took a 3-0 lead in the opener before Nadal clawed back the break to make it 3-3. In the rest of the set they served well, and Rafa prevailed in the tie break 7-4.
Ruud saved one set point at 4-5 in the second set before being broken by Nadal in the 12th game to emerge on top and seal the deal.
Lapentti comments on Nadal
Former World No. 6 Nicolas Lapentti recently compared Carlos Alcaraz’s performance as a teenager to that of Rafael Nadal when he was the same age as his fellow Spaniard.
“If you can compare Alcaraz to Nadal when they were both 19, Alcaraz is much better in many different things. He serves better than Rafa. From the baseline, he is a bit more aggressive. Rafa was bad with his transition when he was 19 then he started improving a lot and tried to get more aggressive,” he said.
“Nadal has this thing that he’s just the best at competing. Every single point, every single week for the past 20 years. It’s 20 years. I played Rafa in 2003, ok? In Bastad. The first time we played, Rafa was 17.
I beat him 7-6 in the third (set). I saved four match points. He was this giant kid, baby face, huge arms fighting like a bull,” he remembered.