Nadal renaissance continues with full circle Acapulco sombrero

Rafael Nadal continued his career-best start to a campaign, meanwhile Iga Swiatek and Andrey Rublev also lifted some eye-catching silverware.

Rafael Nadal during Australian Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Remember Rafael Nadal thought he might have to retire due to a chronic foot injury at the end of 2021. Remember, the Spaniard is 35-years-old. Well, Nadal is building another season to remember.

15-0 in matches so far, the world No.4 has lifted the Melbourne 250, a men’s record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and has now clinched a fourth Acapulco title.

"At the start of the year this was unimaginable," claimed Nadal."A month and a half ago nobody would have believed it."

In fact, Nadal hasn’t dropped a set since going down 0-2 to newly crowned world No.1 Daniil Medvedev during the Australian Open final.

The 35-year-old transferred his form from Melbourne to Mexico - crushing returns, flipping in a high service percentage, clipping disguised drop shots, the well-oiled machine was firing on all cylinders. His net play was particularly brave and punchy.

Just like in Melbourne, Nadal came up with the answers against Medvedev in a commanding 6-3, 6-3 semi-final, prior to dismissing recent Delray Beach champion Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday night.

In any position of the court it seems Nadal believes he can conjure up a shot to escape all sorts of tight spots. Take the opening game of the second set versus Norrie. The world No.12 lasered a backhand approach to skim the baseline. Nadal, running from wide right, sprinted to intercept and curled an astonishing last-ditch cross court forehand passing shot.

Very soon he was collecting a 91st career title, completing a full circle in Acapulco. Nadal won as an 18-year-old in 2005, the year of his first major at Roland-Garros, to become their youngest ever champion, on Saturday he was their eldest.

"I'm very pleased. It was a very important title for me, so I can't be happier,” stated the Spaniard.

"It always has been a very special place (Acapulco). The energy that the people from Mexico bring to me is very unique. Winning a trophy here means a lot.”

Unbeaten in 2022, Nadal’s longevity continues to know no bounds and Roland-Garros is coming up fast on the calendar…

Swiatek dominant in Doha

Just like her idol Nadal, Iga Swiatek has been rewarded with a rise to world No.4 following a statement week at the Qatar Open.

The 2020 Roland-Garros winner steamrolled to her fourth title and first of the year, emphatically defeating in-form Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 6-0 in the final.

Kontaveit, St Petersburg champion, arrived on court on a nine-match winning streak, but Swiatek’s all-court craft was too dialled in for the whole draw in Doha.

"I'm pretty happy that I was composed and I stayed in the same shape I was for the whole tournament, because playing finals is a different feeling," Swiatek said, having surrendered just 11 games in her four victorious career finals.

The 20-year-old ousted three Top 10 players at a single event for the first time in her young career, dismantling Aryna Sabalenka (losing five games), Maria Sakkari (seven games) and then Kontaveit.

Such efficiency on the hard courts has come from putting in the hard yards with renowned coach Tomasz Witkorowski, urging more purposeful aggression from his Polish protégé.

"It's so nice to have these kind of matches where you don't actually have problems with keeping the pace and with staying aggressive,” added Swiatek, who built a semi-final run on hard courts in Adelaide and at the Australian Open earlier this season.

“Because right now I'm a more aggressive player, and I really love it, because it's giving me a lot of confidence on and off court. It's just making sometimes life on court easier."

Rublev on a roll

Andrey Rublev did the singles and doubles scoop in Marseille, and continued to build more momentum with the Dubai title last week. Three trophies in seven days!

The Russian overwhelmed Novak Djokovic’s conqueror, qualifier Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-4 in Saturday’s championship match to curtail a captivating week from the newly stated world No.6.

Rublev is playing freely on the court, picking and choosing when to unleash his full repertoire of devastating strikes. Before the final, the 24-year-old endured a triple of matches going the distance, including the third set tie-break escape against Hubert Hurkacz in the last four.

The power of sport can be underestimated, Rublev writing on the camera lens after his semi-final triumph “No war, please,” and the clip went viral. The Moscow native went a step further on his own social media having won his 10th career title in Dubai, posting on Twitter, “Now it’s not about tennis. It’s not about sport. It’s about having peace all over the world. We need to support each other.”

Well said and merci Andrey.