One of Rafael Nadal’s Wimbledon victims has credited the Spaniard for giving him the fire to win a maiden ATP Tour title at the Swedish Open. Francisco Cerundolo pushed the world No 3 to four sets in the opening round at the All England Club before crashing out and has now shared how he channelled his “anger” into success in Bastad.
Nadal’s Wimbledon run came to an end when he was forced to withdraw ahead of his semi-final with an abdominal injury. But it wasn’t smooth sailing for the 36-year-old as he dropped four sets in five matches, including his opening round against Cerundolo.
The 23-year-old suffered a 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4 defeat to the second seed at SW19 a few weeks ago but has now followed it up with his first tour title and maiden top 10 win over Casper Ruud in Bastad, and admitted it was the anger left over from his Nadal clash that spurred him on for a career-best week.
“That match helped me in many aspects,” the world No 30 said after defeating countryman Sebastian Baez for his maiden title. “Entering the Centre Court of Wimbledon, at a full stadium and playing against Rafa, being able to maintain my emotions and not be totally scared, helped me a lot to know that, if I could play a great game there, I can do it anywhere.”
“I was not overwhelmed by the situation and I convinced myself that I am prepared to face any challenge.” And opening up on his experience of facing the 22-time Major champion, Cerundolo admitted he had been left angry that he was unable to force a fifth set after taking the third.
“On a tennis level, having taken it to the fourth set and having had the chance to win that set and take it to the fifth, convinced me,” he explained. “Before on the grass tour, I had lost matches in the third set, very tight, I didn’t get it, I had a lot of anger about it and I was also angry about not having been able to take Rafa to a fifth set. We analysed it and we realised that he was doing a great job, that at some point it was going to happen to me.”
The 23-year-old also beat fourth seed Pablo Carreno Busta en route to his first trophy, as well as top seed Ruud. And today he achieved a career-high ranking of No 30 in the world off the back of his success at the Swedish Open.
As for Nadal, the Spaniard is set to make his return from the abdominal injury that kept him out of Wimbledon at the upcoming Canadian Masters, beginning on August 7. The Spaniard will then hope to extend his lead in the Grand Slam race at the US Open, as Novak Djokovic’s participation hangs in the balance with unvaccinated travellers still not allowed into the States.