Rafael Nadal defeats Alexei Popyrin, enters quarterfinal in Madrid

The Spaniard eases past the Aussie in straight sets to enter the last-8 in Madrid Open for the 15th time.

Rafael Nadal in action in Madrid Open; Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

Rafael Nadal was at his lethal best as he eased past Australia’s Alexei Popyrin to reach the quarterfinals. Nadal, who is chasing a record-extending sixth Mutua Madrid Open title, won the match 6-3, 6-3. Later, the Spaniard informed that the court was slippery. “It was difficult. The court today was slippery, it was very fast, very dry conditions,” he said in his on-court interview.

“The ball was flying a lot. The beginning of the match was super tough. He was hitting every ball and hitting the spots. Very happy with the victory. It was an important victory, he came here playing well. Every match is tough,” he added.

This is the 15th time Nadal has entered the last eight in the Spanish capital. It was in 2012, when he didn’t make it this far. The 20-time Grand Slam champion will next play the 2018 champion Alexander Zverev or Briton Daniel Evans.

It was Popyrin who started the brighter of the two as Nadal faced 0/40 in his first service game of the match at 0-1. But the Spaniard took advantage of Popyrin’s errors to hold on to the game. Post that game, Nadal was relatively in control of the match.

“I think I was doing things well, even if it was difficult to play against a player like him, [since] he was trying to hit every single ball,” Nadal said. “He was hitting every ball hard. I needed to adapt and I think I did that well.”

For the first time, the Australian was playing in the round-of-16 at an ATP Masters 1000 event. Popyrin was good with his first serve, winning 83 per cent of those points. But, he could not hold on to his service games effectively. The Spaniard converted four of his six break points and won 43 per cent of his return points.

“Yesterday he played against Sinner and he beat Jannik, so maximum respect,” Nadal said. “He has a big potential, honestly.”

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