This time it is launched. Much more at his ease than when he entered the fray against Feliciano Lopez, Rafael Nadal rose to power Thursday in the round of 16 against Australian Jordan Thompson, 61st player in the world, who was not unworthy in particular in the second handle. The Mallorcan won in two sets (6-1, 7-6) and just over an hour and a half of play (1h33 precisely) to reach the quarter-finals at Bercy for the 8th time in 8 participations. The number 1 seed will find his compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta with a place in the last four in play.
The 1001st victory was less eventful. Spent not without difficulty Wednesday in the very closed club of players who have at least 1,000 successes with Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal made the task easier on Thursday. Although jostled at the end of the second set – he even saved a set point at 5-6 against him – the world number 2 was much more convincing in the game. What to see the continuation with the cautious optimism that he characterizes.
Still some settings to fine tune
Let’s face it, the profile of his opponent of the day suited him more than that of Feliciano Lopez. Regular in the exchange of the bottom, Jordan Thompson does not have enough strong blows in his arsenal to really hamper Nadal. And surely impressed by the occasion, even without an audience, the Australian also timidly entered the game and paid dearly for it. After half an hour, he was already a set behind.
But Thompson had the merit of finally finding his rhythm, showing himself much more authoritative on his commitments in the second round, while Nadal, him, lacked a bit of bite. Result: the Aussie was the only one to get a break point, synonymous with a set point. But under pressure, the Mallorcan regained his aggressiveness. Despite an off-center forehand, he dismissed the danger after a rally of 26 blows. A way to get back on his feet for a masterfully controlled tie-break, both in short stretches and during a new 33-strike showdown that left traces on the other side of the net.
This end of the second round showed Nadal that he still had a margin compared to his best level, including on hard indoor, not his favorite surface. The Mallorcan can play longer and return better in particular. In the next round, he has a dream opponent to further raise the cursor and gain confidence, because against Carreno Busta, he has lost only one set in six confrontations. A specialist in baseline ranges, the 15th player in the world has the ideal tennis to allow Nadal to fine-tune his settings. It still has to be demonstrated, once again.