INDIAN WELLS: Rafael Nadal pulled off another great escape on Saturday, rallying after two breaks in the third set to beat young American Sebastian Korda in the second round at Indian Wells.
As Daniil Medvedev – the man Nadal beat with an epic comeback in the Australian Open final – claimed victory in his first match as the world’s highest-ranked player, Nadal was put to work by Korda, 21, ranked 38th in the world.
“I feel very, very lucky to have succeeded today,” Nadal said after a 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7/3) victory in the prestigious WTA and ATP Masters tournament on hard court. .
“Sebastian was playing fantastic tennis. I definitely didn’t play my best match (but) I owe him a lot of credit for playing so aggressively and he gave me a lot of problems. The evening ended ended with four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka leaving Stadium Court in tears after being heckled early in a 6-0, 6-4 second-round loss to Veronika Kudermetova.
Osaka, who has put the mental health of athletes in the spotlight during a tumultuous 2021, said it wasn’t so much the cry “Naomi, you suck” from the crowd, but the fact that it reminded him of how Venus and Serena Williams laughed at the same tournament in 2001.
“To be honest, I feel like I’ve been heckled before, it didn’t really bother me,” she told the crowd after the game. “But, like, I watched a video of Venus and Serena being heckled here. If you’ve never watched it, you should watch it,” Osaka added, choking back tears.
“I don’t know why, but it popped into my head and it got replayed a lot.”
Osaka asked the chair umpire to intervene after the incident, to no avail, and at 0-3 the former world number one‘s emotions briefly boiled over.
She pulled herself together and even though she raised her game in the second set, she couldn’t get past Kudermetova. Medvedev had opened the action on Stadium Court and after saving a break point in the opener he had little trouble with 21-year-old Czech qualifier Tomas Machac, ranked 158th in the world. The US Open champion cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 win in 70 minutes, although Medvedev said ‘it wasn’t as easy as it looks’ after sealing victory over a third match point.
Medvedev said it was “a great feeling” to step onto the pitch as world number one, “something I always dreamed of”.
Medvedev, who has never made it past the fourth round in four previous matches, will next face Frenchman Gael Monfils, who beat Serbian Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 6-4.
Nadal, who won a record 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January, improved on his perfect start to the season to 16 straight wins with a gritty display that owed more to experience.