5 things from Dolgopolov's win vs. Nadal

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
7:22
AM ET
Alexandr Dolgopolov was 0-5 against Rafael Nadal coming into their third-round match at Indian Wells, including a loss in the Rio final two weeks ago. But the 25-year-old from Ukraine not only proceeded to beat the world No. 1 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) but did it after losing a 5-2 lead in the third set and being 4-2 behind in the third-set tiebreaker. A look at five things that helped him do it:

1. He was clutch when it got close

Even after going from 5-2 to 5-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, Dolgopolov didn't write himself off. "I knew I'm playing well enough to win," he said. "The point was not to get too nervous."

And though his first-serve percentage was only 40 percent, Dolgopolov came up with 11 aces, and, he noted, "those big moments, I had a lot of good serves."

2. Different day, different surface

In Rio de Janeiro, on clay courts, Dolgopolov played error-prone tennis and made it close only when Nadal was serving for the match. At Indian Wells, it was almost the other way around.

"I think I played much better today," he said. "It was hard court. I returned well and I had a day to practice with a lefty, so there was a lot of differences."

3. He's being coached by his father again

The Ukrainian's unrestrained variety and shot-making make him entertaining to watch -- but hard to coach.

Dolgopolov says that so far he has found only two people he feels comfortable working with, one of them his father -- an established tour coach who taught him the game. After trying out Fabrice Santoro at the beginning of the year, Dolgopolov is back with his father for the first time in a few years.

"Mostly I'm coached by my dad now," he said. "I think it's not for people to understand some different game. Some people have their view on tennis, and if they coach someone, they try to make him play like they want."

4. He's in good shape again

After making the quarterfinals of the 2011 Australian Open and being in the top 20 for two years, Dolgopolov struggled last year but says he is now well-positioned to move back up.

"Last year, I didn't really have good preparation," he said. "I was injured after Australia. I had to play the Davis Cup injured and got even more injured. It was a messy year.

"This year, I had a month for preparation. I did it quite well," he said. "Even when I lost in the start of the season, I was playing good."

5. He's trying to boost Ukraine

Dolgopolov released a video last week with messages for Ukraine from fellow pros -- Nadal among them. Now, he's the one providing some positive moments for his homeland as it deals with recent government upheaval and conflict with Russia.

"As I said, it's good to make some results and make the people forget a little bit and have some happy moments in the news, [something] except the politics," he said.

Nadal’s account

"I played bad," was Nadal's simple explanation, while his opponent was "much better" than their last match. He added that his back injury was not the reason for a subpar performance. "I didn't have bad feelings with my back. The bad feelings was with the forehand and with the backhand."


The world No. 1 described his performance as "unusual" given that he's been playing well in practice. But having two unorthodox players in his first two rounds -- Radek Stepanek and Dolgopolov -- probably didn't help.

"I played two opponents that probably didn't help me to get the rhythm in the tournament," Nadal said.

He is already turning his attention to his next event: "Try to rest few days and be fresh mentally, and I hope to be ready for Miami."

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