MS Shanghai, 3rd round, Melzer Scores Biggest Career Win Over Nadal; Steps Up Finals Bid
Austrian Jurgen Melzer recorded the biggest win of his career on Thursday when he defeated World No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.
"I think the key was to put a lot of pressure on him," admitted Melzer, who improved to 10-43 lifetime against Top 10 opponents. "You cannot let him play his game. You'll always be second. That play with his forehand, he's just too good.
"So I tried to take the ball early. I was serving really well, especially on big moments. I executed my game plan, which was putting a lot of pressure, especially on his forehand."
Melzer snapped a three-match losing streak against the Spaniard after hitting 14 aces and converting three of 12 break point opportunities. He won 12 of 20 return points in the first set before Nadal regained his composure.
"To be honest, I learned from the last matches," Melzer added. "The first one at the Olympics was a blowout. Then I think I played a very good match [at Roland Garros] against him. Although I lost in three sets, I was very close in winning one. Clay is his best surface. I'm very happy."
Melzer clinched a crucial break in the sixth game of the third set, before top seed Nadal hit his only ace at 2-5 in the third set on Melzer’s second of four match points.
The No. 13 seed improved to a 46-23 match record on the season and will next meet Juan Monaco of Argentina, who dropped 12 points on serve to cruise past Mischa Zverev 6-0, 6-2 in 66 minutes.
Nadal, who has captured seven tour-level titles this year – including Grand Slam championship trophies at Roland Garros (d. Soderling), Wimbledon (d. Berdych) and the US Open (d. Djokovic) – dropped to a 67-9 season mark.
"I felt slow on court," said Nadal. "I had more mistakes than usual. I played shorter than usual. [I was] a little bit more tired than usual, just physically and mentally. just [want to] congratulate him. It's true, he played very aggressive, but [it] wasn't very difficult [to] play that aggressive against me today."
The 24 year old is next scheduled to compete at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris before contesting his final tournament of the year at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
"I am very, very happy about what happened to me during all the year," said Nadal. "Two tournaments [remain] for me. [I will] enjoy these ones and try to play better than today."
Melzer is bidding to become the first player since Emilio Sanchez (w/Casal) in 1990 to contest the singles and doubles competitions at the elite season finale.
"To be honest, I could live with that, having busy days in London," he said. "But it's a long way there. I'm in the quarter-finals. I have a good chance to reach the semis. I'm almost 900 points off the eighth player. This is a very long way. If it somehow happens, I'll be there, I'll be happy, and I'll be hopefully performing well."