Indian Wells: Rafa Bagels the Nalbandian Block
Vamos Rafa! He has done it again.
After a near three-hour long, tough, gritty three setter, Rafa packed Nalbandian off nicely with a revengeful bagel in the third. This victory will go down in Rafa's history books as the most thrilling comeback.
After being one set down, and staring down the barrel of defeat in the second set at 3-5, Rafa came from a deep low to hold his serve, break Nalbandian, and then push him to a tie-break.
Before this match, Nalbandian had a 2-0 head-to-head against Nadal, and throughout the first set, and midway in the second, Rafa was clearly struggling to get a foothold. His body language displayed a certain tautness and anxiety which is not often visible when he is playing.
He got broken twice in the first set, and though he broke Nalbandian once to level the set at 3-3, the effort wasn't enough to clinch the set.
His woes didn't end there. Until the eighth game of the second set, Nalby was cruising along. There didn't appear any shot that he couldn't pass or convert.
Nadal appeared bemused and angry, both directed internally. His fans couldn't believe their eyes.
A comparison between the Nadal at that point in the second set with the Nadal who played at the Oz Open finals would have raised eyebrows to their farthest stretching point.
But while Nalbandian couldn't do anything to convert that break into a match winner, Rafa showed why he is the best in the world. Not only did he manage to hold his serve, he broke Nalbandian in the next game to square things at 5-5.
Thereafter it was Rafa and Rafa alone. The long and hard rallies took a toll on Nalbandian, and for the first time in the match, Rafa had the upper hand. Nalbandian was thoroughly shaken and like a shark smelling blood, Rafa pounced.
The third set was one way traffic, with Rafa breaking Nalbandian thrice, not allowing him a single game, and thus winning the match with a bagel 6-0. The fist pumping that he gave after that was ecstasy and jubilation of the highest order, and must have delighted his fans to the maximum.
Rafa deserved the victory because he held his nerves when it mattered and played like a true champion. Nalbandian can't say he didn't get any chances, he had many coming his way, but unlike Rafa, he didn't deliver at the time when it mattered the most.
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