Rafael Nadal crashes out of Paris Masters with opening loss to Tommy Paul
Rafael Nadal made a losing comeback to action in his debut encounter at the Paris Masters. The world No. 2 hadn’t played since departing the US Open two months ago, and he was defeated by Tommy Paul 4-6 7-6(4) 6-1 in two hours and 32 minutes, as the American recorded his biggest career triumph.
Nadal took the court for the first time since losing to Frances Tiafoe in the US Open.
The 36-year-old took a hiatus as he continued to recover from an abdominal tear he sustained at Wimbledon and became a father for the first time last month as he and his wife Mery Perello welcomed a son. There was some rust for the second seed in the first game of the match as he found himself at deuce after being 40-0 up but managed to hold on.
It was Paul who was first to break as he took a 2-1 lead but Nadal immediately broke back and won three games in a row from 3-3 to take the opener 6-3 after 41 minutes. This time it was the 22-time Grand Slam champion who pounced first, also taking a break-lead in the third game of the second set, but the world No 31 broke straight back to level at 2-2.
It became something of a tricky set for Nadal, who was forced to stave off two break points while serving at 2-3 down. Paul ensured the 36-year-old was continuing to play catch-up as he continued to get through his service games with ease after giving away a break at the start of the set and created a set point chance with the Spaniard serving at 4-5 but the American netted two shots in a row before sending a ball wide to let Nadal escape the game.
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The set was decided in a tiebreak, and the 25-year-old seized an early mini-break lead owing to a double-fault from Nadal’s racket. It was important, with Paul converting his third set point to force a decider and then running away with it, breaking in the first game of the third set as the second seed appeared irritated.
Suddenly, from 40-0 up at 2-1, the American faced a break point but was given a reprieve when Nadal nearly missed the line and failed to convert, allowing Paul to hold for 3-1.
And it was all Paul once again as he broke the Spaniard for a second time in the set as Nadal sat down at the changeover with his head bowed, dripping with sweat. It was Nadal’s turn to falter from game point up, as he found himself facing a match point at 1-5 down after being 40-30 up. Paul sealed the match with a winner to earn the biggest win of his career in two hours and 32 minutes, coming back from behind to beat the second seed 3-6 7-6(4) 6-1.
After qualifying for the year-end ATP Finals in Turin, Nadal now has only one tournament left this season. He stated before of his return in Paris-Bercy that he didn’t know where his game would be following a break from the tour.
“It’s impossible to predict how you’re going to play, how your body is going to adapt, since it’s evident that the tour level is different, that the amount of practise that I can have at home,” he told reporters before of his first encounter.