Rafael Nadal explains how he managed to ‘control’ Reilly Opelka’s ‘weapons’ to go 18-0 for 2022

Rafael Nadal ina ction

He managed his rival’s big serve “so-so”, but in the end Rafael Nadal produced his best match at this year’s BNP Paribas Open to see off Reilly Opelka and continue his unbeaten start to the season.

As expected Opelka was excellent on serve and reached speeds of over 230km per hour, but Nadal stood firm in the rallies and eventually claimed a 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5) win in two hours and 11 minutes to reach the quarter-final.

There were no breaks of serve in the opening set with the American saving a break point in game seven and Nadal then comfortably took the tie-breaker.

Opelka looked set to take it to a third set when he broke in game five and then had three more break points in game seven. He was made to pay for not taking his chances as the 21-time Grand Slam winner drew level in game eight.

An early mini-break in the tie-breaker set up the win for Nadal, who is now 18-0 for the season having won the Melbourne Summer Set, Australian Open and Mexican Open.

“He is one of the toughest opponents on Tour,” the Spaniard said. “It is very tough to control his weapons with his serve and forehand. I think I played my best match of the tournament so far. I am very pleased with how I was able to win the match, with two difficult tie-breaks. This victory means a lot to me.”

As for Opelka’s “weapons”, he said: “I manage it so-so. I don’t know if the cameras can follow me like 10 meters behind the baseline.

“It’s not only about the speed. The spin is also difficult to read. Sometimes it’s coming with topspin, sometimes with slice.

“It’s a great victory for me against one of the toughest opponents I can play and I’m very happy. I can’t thank you enough for all the positive energy that I receive every single day here.”

Up next is Nick Kyrgios after the Australian advanced to the quarter-final when 10th seeded Italian Jannik Sinner withdrew due to illness.