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Nadal vs Tiafoe ATP Madrid live streaming, preview and tips - Nadal targets repeat of Australian Open win over Tiafoe

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 9 May 2019
  • Rafael Nadal vs Frances Tiafoe is live from Madrid around 8.00pm local time on Thursday (7.00pm BST)
  • Nadal won their only previous clash in straight sets at the Australian Open earlier this season
Rafael Nadal (PA Images)

Rafael Nadal continues his bid for a first title of 2019 on Thursday at the Madrid Masters when he comes up against rising star Frances Tiafoe in the Round of 16.

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It’s a rematch of the Australian Open quarter-finals in the Madrid Masters Round of 16 on Thursday as Rafael Nadal and Frances Tiafoe collide in the Spanish capital.

Suffering from a stomach virus and less than ideal form coming into the Madrid Masters, Nadal managed to claim a straight sets victory over 18-year-old sensation Felix Auger-Aliassime in his opening match on Wednesday, defeating the Canadian 6-3 6-3 in difficult conditions. It was a cold and windy day in Madrid, but Nadal served impeccably, winning 34 of 45 points behind his own delivery and forcing Auger-Aliassime into tricky positions on the baseline as the teenager imploded midway through both sets, committing a total of 30 unforced errors, including five off his forehand in one game to hand Nadal the crucial break in the opening set. Overall, it was far from a polished performance, but given the circumstances, Nadal was happy to move on in straight sets.

“It's a day to be very satisfied, very happy. I managed to win. I managed to win in two sets [against] an opponent, who was not easy, and the day was not the best. It was windy and cold,” Nadal said.
“The important thing is to win, especially given what's happened in the last three days,” Nadal added, referring to his stomach virus.
“The first seven games I didn't have a lot of rhythm. Both him and I, we were struggling when returning the balls. We had a lot of first serves and returning was very difficult... I managed to do a break, and from there onwards, it's a turning point. I think I started to return a little bit better from thereon. And I did things better than him.”

Nadal has only lost before the quarter-finals on two occasions: the first coming in 2003 when as a 17-year-old qualifier, he beat second seed and current coach Carlos Moya before going down to Gaston Gaudio, while Fernando Verdasco got the better of him in the third round in 2012. Nadal has won the Madrid Masters five times and on four occasions since the tournament moved from hardcourt to clay, but he’s only been able to call himself champion in one of the last four years, winning in 2017 but finishing runner-up in 2015, falling in the semi-finals in 2016 and going down in the quarter-finals last year.

As mentioned, it hasn’t been the dominant start to a clay season we’re used to seeing from Nadal, and if he doesn’t win the title this week, it will be the first time since 2015 where he hasn’t won either Monte-Carlo or Madrid - and that was the season he didn’t win a Masters 1000 title (the only year he failed to win one since 2004) and failed to go beyond the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam. The Spaniard started the season strongly by making the Australian Open final without dropping a set, but he was ultimately demolished by Novak Djokovic in the final - and since then he’s found the going tough, losing to Nick Kyrgios in the second round of Acapulco, withdrawing from the Indian Wells semi-finals due to injury, going down to Fabio Fognini in the Monte-Carlo semis and then losing to Dominic Thiem at the same stage in Barcelona. Can Nadal return to the champions corner in Madrid?

Frances Tiafoe (PA Images)
He faces one of the brightest and most electric young guns on tour in the Round of 16. Just 21 years of age, Frances Tiafoe enjoyed a breakout season last year as he won his maiden ATP World Tour title in Delray Beach, beating Juan Martin del Potro and Denis Shapovalov along the way, while he also made the fourth round in Miami, finished runner-up on the clay of Estoril and made the third round at Wimbledon, ending 2018 at No. 39 in the world.

However, Tiafoe has taken his game to another level in 2019 and has made a mini-habit of peaking for the bigger tournaments. The American began the season by advancing to his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open, defeating Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov before going down to Nadal, while he also made his maiden Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami, taking out David Ferrer and David Goffin. However, Tiafoe has lost in the first round of six other tournaments this season, which shows consistency is still something he needs to work on if he wants to establish himself at the top of the game, while it also indicates he’s struggling to get himself motivated for the smaller events.

Tiafoe started his clay season with a straight sets loss in his opening match in Barcelona to Jaume Munar, but he strung some wins together in Estoril last week, beating Mikhail Kukushkin and Yoshihito Nishioka on his way to the quarter-finals, while he’s claimed two very solid victories in his Madrid debut this week, conquering Nikoloz Basilashvili and Philipp Kohlschreiber in three sets to earn another shot at Nadal.

If Tiafoe is going to trouble Nadal on clay, then Madrid is the tournament where he’s going to have the best chance. However, the American is going to have to redline his aggressive game, serve out of a tree and cut down on the unforced errors to stand any chance, and Tiafoe doing that for near three hours against the greatest clay court player in history is very unlikely. Tiafoe didn’t get close to winning a set against Nadal in Melbourne and the Spaniard should be set for a similar victory in Madrid on Thursday.

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Nadal vs Tiafoe ATP Madrid live streaming, preview and tips - Nadal targets repeat of Australian Open win over Tiafoe

Rafael Nadal continues his bid for a first title of 2019 on Thursday at the Madrid Masters when he comes up against rising star Frances Tiafoe in the Round of 16.

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