Barcelona: Nadal d. Garcia-Lopez

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 /by

Rsz_1vIn regards to Spain’s embarrassment of men's tennis riches, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is one of those who can be easily lost in the shuffle, a solid Top-100 player who has been as high as No. 23 in the rankings and has wins over Nadal and Andy Murray on his record. After a poor start to 2012, however—he's 9-8 for the year—he is down to No. 78, and today never looked like repeating his 2010 Bangkok victory over his more famous compatriot, Rafael Nadal. The six-time Barcelona champion eased into his title defense with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.

Broken to 15 after a rash of forehand errors and a double fault, Garcia-Lopez held serve just once in the first set, serving at 43 percent and winning a less-than-stellar 44 percent of points behind it. He was consistently unable to keep pace wth Nadal in the rallies, getting his footwork wrong as he tried to protect his single-handed backhand by running around it, and although he saved the first set point against him with a well-executed serve-and-volley, Rafa took the first set in just 30 minutes.

After the emotion of winning Monte Carlo for the eighth time and snapping his losing streak against Novak Djokovic, Nadal could be excused some inattention in settling down to the hard work of defending another title; indeed, it was not his best performance. Although he broke for 2-0 in the second set with a trademark forehand pass, followed by another big winner off that side in racing to a 4-0 lead, Nadal never got his first serve percentage above 55 percent and made some unusual errors. By and large, it made no difference, as he was still comprehensively outplaying Garcia-Lopez, but it did prolong the contest. A visibly-frustrated Garcia-Lopez stopped trying to run round his forehand on every shot and started using his strong single-handed backhand to dictate points, stretch Nadal out wide, and get into the net behind it. Coupled with a rash of unforced errors by Nadal, it let Garcia-Lopez break back and gut out a marathon hold for 2-4.

As last-ditch efforts go, it was reasonably impressive. But having been woken up a little, there was no way Nadal would repeat the mistake, playing perhaps his best and most impregnable service game of the match to go up 5-2 before attacking Garcia-Lopez’s serve. Garcia-Lopez would save the first match point, but a double fault immediately gave up another one, and Nadal closed out the match to move on to the third round where he is likely to face another compatriot, sixteenth seed Pablo Andujar.

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