Rafael Nadal (USA) vs.  Richard Gasquet (FRA)
Their head-to-head coming into this match was 14:0 in favor of Nadal. Confidence should have been high for Nadal; however, losing his last match to someone he should have defeated carried over to the beginning of this match and Nadal was very tentative.
Gasquet had opportunities in the first set to potentially change the outcome of this match but the effect of never beating his opponent prevented him from doing so. Years of losing to the same opponent creates a mental obstacle that becomes bigger and bigger with each successive loss and it saps you of belief. Thus, it is not surprising that Gasquet went into this match with little belief –“I have a hard time seeing how I win against him before the end of my career“.
If you start a match believing you can’t beat your opponent, more than likely you will not beat your opponent. That is exactly what happened tonight; Gasquet could not overcome the humongous mental hurdle and lost in straight sets to Nadal.
Nadal won 6-3, 6-4 and moved into the last sixteen to face his countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas. As great as Nadal has been this season, he has not won a title on hard court and with the last major just around the corner a title in Cincinnati would do wonders for his confidence. He is 0-8 in hard court finals since his last hard court title in 2014 in Doha.
Can Nadal rediscover the winning formula on hard court here in Cincinnati and claim his thirty-first Masters 1000 title? Or will another big serving opponent prevent him from getting to the final or prevent him from winning the title if he managed to get to the final?
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