The question of “How do you beat Nadal in 2022?” remains valid. Sebastian Korda was close to the answer, but choked in the end.
It was close. But he is still undefeated. After a timid first set, Korda threw everything but the kitchen sink at a struggling Nadal. The American’s talended ball-striking took Nadal by surprise. And the way he returned Rafa’s serves made the Spaniard hesitate and double-fault frequently. How do you beat Nadal in 2022? The same way you always beat him unless you’re Novak, you attack relentlessly and hope you have a great day.
It worked. Almost all the way.
After losing the first set 2-6, Korda came roaring back 2-6 6-1 5-2. It was a masterful display from the young American. Rafa looked out of sorts. He was clearly doubting himself. But what makes Rafa Rafa is that he never gives up. He tries to find a way, even with his back against the wall. And at 2-5 down, he took a few steps back, increased the safety on his shots and opened the door for Korda to choke and implode.
Is it a choke?
Is losing a match from two breaks up in the final set a choke? Yeah, kind of. Even though the best players in the world will find a way to make the challenge as tough as possible, it’s an opportunity that’s there for the taking.
But Korda saw the finish line. He probably imagined himself beating his idol and what a moment that would be for him.
Toxic thoughts on a tennis court. You need to play as close to without emotion as you can. And when the emotion gets to you, the game gets away from you.
Korda got broken at 5-2. Rafa serving at 5-3. The bull from Manacor is smelling blood. And when he smells blood, he is the most dangerous.
Rafa holds serve. Korda needs to serve it out. He’s nervous. The momentum has shifted. And he doesn’t get a look at a match point. Instead Rafa breaks and it’s 5-5.
I don’t think many people watching the match thought that Korda would win after being 5-2 up and losing three games in a row.
But holding at 5-6 down after losing four games in a row was a good sign from Korda. The guy has got game. I don’t think the choke in this match was any evidence of mental weakness. Just a combination of Nadal’s strength and the size of the occasion.
In the tie-break, it could, of course, go either way. But you need to back Rafa. He has not lost a match in 2022 and had returned from the brink of defeat.
And so it happened. Korda had the mini-break, but Nadal came back and won the tie-break and the match 7-3 (6-2 1-6 7-6).
Great match! Korda showed impressive talent, Nadal (again) showed tantalizing tenacity.
Can Rafa go all the way in Indian Wells? Like I said in my draw prediction video, I don’t think so. But then again, nothing is impossible for PhenomeNadal.