World No. 2, Rafael Nadal launches his bid for a third Acapulco title on Tuesday when he takes on fellow Spaniard, Pablo Andujar in the first round.
Nadal vs Andujar is live from Acapulco on Tuesday, 25 February from 7:30pm local time/ Wednesday, 26 February from 1:30am GMT
Nadal was champion in Acapulco in 2005 and 2013, when the event was still staged on clay, but he has not won the title since the tournament moved to hard courts in 2014. The best he’s managed was a runner-up finish in 2017 (lost to Sam Querrey), while he fell to Nick Kyrgios in the second round last season in his only other appearance at the ATP 500 meet since the switch to hard courts.
The Spaniard is returning to action for the first time since the Australian Open, where he was knocked out by Dominic Thiem in the quarter finals.
While Nadal has compiled an 8-2 singles record this season, he has not been at his absolute best in 2020. He was 4-2 in singles matches at the ATP Cup, losing to David Goffin and Novak Djokovic, while he was overpowered by Thiem in Melbourne, losing 7-6 7-6 4-6 7-6 in the last eight. The Spaniard remains without an Australian Open title since his lone Melbourne success in 2009, while he also missed the chance to equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles.
He grabbed two of his 19 majors in 2019- at Roland Garros and the US Open- while he also added titles in Rome and Montreal in yet another fine campaign. The great man ended the year as the No. 1 player in the world, tying Djokovic, Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors on five No. 1 finishes. Pete Sampras, with six, holds the all-time record.
Nadal lost the No. 1 ranking to Djokovic at the Australian Open, but the Spaniard has got a mathematical chance of regaining that ranking this week. If he wins in Acapulco and Djokovic fails to make the final in Dubai, he will be No. 1 again.
The top seed starts his Acapulco campaign against Pablo Andujar on Tuesday.
Andujar was ranked well outside the top-1000 as recently as February 2018 following a lengthy injury absence, but he fought back to break back into the top-100 in November that year, and has done very well to maintain a spot in the top-100 up until now. Andujar jumped to 82nd by the end of 2018, while he consolidated his top-100 status with a solid 2019.
He was runner-up in Marrakech (where he was defending champion) and semi-finalist in Gstaad, while he also recorded his best Grand Slam performance, reaching the fourth round of the US Open. He beefed up his ranking with a strong year at the Challenger events, winning titles in Marbella, Alicante and Prostejov. He breached the top-50 last season- first time he’d done that in over four years- and ended the year at 64th in the world.
The 34-year-old has not has the best start to 2020, losing opening matches in Doha, Melbourne, the Australian Open and Buenos Aires, and going just one round better in Cordoba and Rio, sliding to a 2-6 record this season. The chances of those numbers improving on Tuesday are not good at all.
Nadal has beaten Andujar in all of their three previous matches, and has dropped just one set in the process. All of those meetings were on clay. The world No. 2 should extend his dominance over his countryman when they meet again in Acapulco on Tuesday.