The inaugural Rio Open took place in February 2014, with eight-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal leading the action. Nadal made an impressive comeback in the previous season to conquer world no.1, staying on the same course in early 2014 with the Doha title and the Australian Open final.
Rafa experienced a major setback in Melbourne, injuring his back and losing the title clash to Stan Wawrinka in four sets. Returning to action three weeks later in Rio, Rafa defeated fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 7-5, surrendering three breaks and prevailing in the decisive moments of the second set to avoid spending any more time on the court.
In the second round, Nadal defeated Albert Montañés 6-1, 6-2 in 75 minutes and held that level against Joao Sousa to enter the quarterfinals after losing just one game. Facing the third Spaniard that week, Nadal had to give his 120% to topple Pablo Andujar 2-6, 6-3, 7-6, prevailing 12-10 in the tie break after fending off two match points.
Andujar threw everything he had at Nadal, earning two more points and suffering just two breaks from four chances offered to Nadal. On the other hand, Rafa fended off 11 of 14 break chances (five of six in the decider) and kept in touch until the closing stages, when he crossed the finish line first after a huge cliffhanger.
Andujar converted the fourth break chance in the first game to put himself in front and widened the gap to 5-2 with a forehand return winner in game seven. In game eight, Rafa played a loose drop shot to give Pablo the first set, who had to work harder from set number two to avoid defeat.
Andujar suffered a break in the fourth game of the second set following a backhand error, and Nadal extended the lead to 5-2 after saving a break point with a forehand winner in game seven.
Rafa will skip the Canadian Open
Patrick Mouratoglou recently took to Instagram to explain three changes he feels Rafael Nadal has made to his game over the years.
“First, Rafa’s game has become more and more aggressive. Early in his career, he would win games by forcing long rallies from baseline,” Mouratoglou said. “Now he is looking to step inside the court more, take control of the points and shorten the rallies to conserve energy.”
Furthermore, the coach emphasized how the 35-year-old now keeps his elbow higher while serving to produce more “whip-effect” on the ball. “His serve went from a way to start the point to an actual weapon. He changed some elements in his technique which allowed him to gain more power.
One of the biggest changes is improving his weight dispatch. [You can notice] how little his body was involved in the shot compared to how much he throws himself forward now,” Mouratoglou said. “He has also changed his trophy position, keeping his elbow higher and allowing his racquet to drop lower down his back for an increased whip-effect.”