Rafael Nadal looks to remain unbeaten against countryman Pablo Carreno Busta as the pair clash in the Australian Open third round on Saturday.
Rafael Nadal ?? vs Pablo Carreno Busta ?? Match Info
Date: Saturday January 25
Tournament: Australian Open R3
Court: Rod Laver Arena
Time: 2.00am local time (3.00am GMT)
Rafael Nadal vs Pablo Carreno Busta Head-to-Head
Nadal leads 4-0
2017 | Roland Garros QF | Nadal 6-2 2-0 RET
2016 | Rio R32 | Nadal 6-1 6-4
2016 | Doha R32 | Nadal 6-7(5) 6-3 6-1
2015 | Rio R16 | Nadal 7-5 6-3
Rafael Nadal vs Pablo Carreno Busta Match Preview
Nadal and Carreno Busta square off for the first time in three years with an Australian Open fourth round spot on the line – and it would be a massive shock if the World No. 1, even far from his best, was to be troubled in this one.
I don’t think Nadal has been anywhere close to his best form to start the 2020 season – he was a bit off the pace in the ATP Cup as he battled past Yoshihito Nishioka, lost a set to Alex de Minaur and was outplayed by Novak Djokovic in the final, while he’s been solid without being spectacular in accounting for Hugo Dellien and Federico Delbonis in his first two rounds at the Australian Open.
Nadal was never going to be troubled by Dellien, but he would be slightly concerned with how much he had to fight to get past Delbonis – someone he’d never dropped more than three games in a set too in the past. The 19-time major champion only converted three of 20 break points and was stretched to as second set tiebreak, but once he won that he was in cruise control to the finish line, prevailing 6-3 7-6(4) 6-1 in two hours and 30 minutes.
“It was the first time playing during the evening here, and the conditions were cooler and slow,” said Nadal, during an on-court interview.
“It was a tough match, I lost an awful lot of opportunities on the break points, but I found a way to win. I think in the third set, I was more relaxed and play aggressively.”
Nadal is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam twice – and just the third in the sport’s history after Rod Laver and Roy Emerson competed the feat in parts during the amateur era. It might come as bit of a surprise to note that Nadal has made just as many Australian Open finals as he has U.S. Opens, but the difference is the Spaniard has lost four of them, while he’s also suffered many injury heartbreaks in Melbourne, which is probably part of the reason we don’t associate success with him down under.
Nevertheless, Nadal has reached the Australian Open final in two of the last three years, doing so 12 months ago without dropping a set, and currently he’s on course to do that again. However, in saying that, if he doesn’t raise his level soon, I think Nick Kyrgios, Karen Khachanov and Dominic Thiem have excellent chances to beat him in the fourth round and quarter-finals.
But first, Nadal must navigate past his Davis Cup and ATP Cup teammate in the third round on Saturday.
Pablo Carreno Busta has enjoyed very solid results at the Australian Open in recent years, reaching the fourth round in 2018 and 2019, with the Spaniard extremely unlucky to fall to Kei Nishikori in a deciding set tiebreak last year. My recollection of that match – which was easily in the top 10 matches of the season – was Carreno Busta was hard done by a line call and subsequent umpire decision, which in turn caused him to toss his racquet bag across the court after the match in anger. Carreno Busta has secured his spot in the third round this week with four-set wins over lucky loser Jozef Kovalik and Peter Gojowczyk.
Carreno Busta’s career-best season came in 2017 when he made the U.S. Open semi-finals, the French Open quarter-finals, won the Estoril title and made the Indian Wells Masters semi-finals, and although he’s remained around the 20-30 mark for much of the last two seasons (he did fall to No. 69 in August last year though), he hasn’t come close to replicating that season again. The 28-year-old won his first title since 2017 last year in Chengdu and reached three semi-finals in Antalya, Hamburg and Stockholm to elevate his year-end ranking into the top 30.
Rafael Nadal vs Pablo Carreno Busta Prediction
Nadal is a way off his best tennis, but he’ll be winning this match in straight sets – unless Carreno Busta plays his absolute best tennis, which from what I’ve seen, he hasn’t been doing against a lucky loser and qualifier so far in Melbourne. Nadal will toil away for over two hours again, but he won’t be troubled by his compatriot as he returns to the second week.