Rafael Nadal makes career-best start to year with Mexican Open win

The Australian Open champion’s victory over Stefan Kozlov was his 12th of the year

Eleanor Crooks
Thursday 24 February 2022 10:56
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Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory over Stefan Kozlov (Eduardo Verdugo/AP)
Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory over Stefan Kozlov (Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Rafael Nadal recorded his best ever start to a season by reaching the quarter-finals of the Mexican Open in Acapulco.

Having begun the year with an ATP title in Melbourne before winning a record-breaking 21st grand slam at the Australian Open, Nadal’s 6-0 6-3 victory over Stefan Kozlov was his 12th of 2022.

That surpassed his run in 2014, when he managed 11 consecutive victories before losing to Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open final.

Nadal has picked up where he left off in Melbourne and eased past American lucky loser Kozlov, who had been practising with Nadal when he got the call to say he had made it into the tournament.

He managed a gruelling win over Grigor Dimitrov despite severe cramp but, aside from a brief revival in the second set, was unable to trouble Nadal.

The Spaniard, who will next face another American in Tommy Paul, said on atptour.com: “Always it’s important to win as quick as possible. But the most important thing is to win. Tonight has been straight sets, that’s great news, and I’ll try to be ready for tomorrow again against a tough opponent.”

Nadal is on course for a semi-final rematch with Australian Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev, who could overtake Novak Djokovic as world number one next week and eased to a 6-1 6-2 victory over Pablo Andujar.

Stefanos Tsitsipas was the speediest winner of the day, needing just 47 minutes to defeat JJ Wolf 6-1 6-0.

British number one Cameron Norrie, meanwhile, extended his winning run to six matches following his title in Delray Beach last week by seeing off John Isner 6-7 (2) 6-3 6-4.

Norrie will next meet German lucky loser Peter Gojowczyk, who was the beneficiary of Alexander Zverev’s expulsion from the tournament for aggressively hitting an umpire’s chair with his racket following a doubles defeat on Tuesday.

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