I’m afraid I won’t be able to report on every detail of Rafael Nadal’s 6-1, 6-4 win over Daniel Gimeno-Traver. That’s because I watched this match on a livestream whose proprietors have apparently decided the best time to show an ad is just as the first point of a game is starting. I suppose it’s a smart move, if you can get away with it. Hopefully ESPN and the Tennis Channel won’t get any ideas.
Still, I only missed a minute or two overall. I saw enough to know that, aside from a few uncharacteristically overcooked forehands when Nadal was trying to serve it out at 5-4 in the second set, this was the kind of match we’ve come to expect from him on clay. He looked more comfortable to start than he had in his first one, going up 3-0 on his countryman in a hurry.
It seemed at first that Gimeno-Traver had no way to hurt Nadal and was content to rally for a while before picking up his quarterfinalist’s paycheck. But he dug in during the second set, knocking off high forehands and holding serve to 4-3 without facing a break point. But he never looked ready to go any farther. When Nadal double-faulted to start his service game at 2-3, Gimeno-Traver reacted to the opportunity by sending an easy forehand wide, flipping a tentative backhand into the net, and hitting a forehand return of a second serve over the baseline. DGT didn’t come prepared for success today.
The match only threatened to catch fire in the final game, in which Nadal, possibly feeling a few closer's nerves, faced four break points, the first that Gimeno-Traver had earned all match. Rafa played those points well, mostly controlling them with his forehand and finishing one with a nice sliding forehand volley and an overhead. Gimeno-Traver answered with his own bit of 11th-hour brilliance on Nadal’s first two match points. On the first, he hit a drop shot winner; on the second, he rocketed a backhand return past Rafa. The third time wasn’t the charm, though, as Gimeno-Traver shanked a forehand skyward to give Nadal the match and a trip to the semifinals, where he’ll face either Jeremy Chardy or Paolo Lorenzi.
If you’re looking for negatives for Nadal, he didn’t react as well as he normally does to the drop shot; he had a bad series of backhand errors in the middle of the second set; and he won a lot of his points on Gimeno-Traver errors. If you’re looking for positives, the fact that those were his only shortcomings in his second match in seven months should be all you need to know.