Rising Tennis Star Basilashvili Gives Nadal a Good Fight in US Open

Georgia's most illustrious tennis player, Nikoloz Basilashvili, ended his run at the US Open yesterday with a hard fought loss to Rafael Nadal. Nadal's win pushed him forward to the quarter-finals. The Spanish player won the US Open's men's singles in 2010, 2013 and 2017. His appearance in the quarter-finals at the US Open means he has reached at least that stage in all four Grand Slam tournaments this year, for the first time since 2011. The first quarter-final matches will be played tomorrow. 

Basilashvili's appearance this late in the tournament was a surprise to many. The Georgian athlete was unseeded. He has played Nadal once before, though. In a June 2017 match at the French Open, then ranked number 63 in the world, Basilashvili lost to Nadal in straight sets in just 90 minutes. "The score is quite embarrassing, but I have to accept it," Basilashvili said after that match, "also it gives me a lot of motivation for the future to keep working hard. As I said, I have a lot of things to improve. And I'm very happy as it is going now with the improvement. So I'm always progressing, this year, every year." 

Basilashvili is currently ranked 37th, and held his own against the world number one on Sunday. Nadal started the match strong with a two-set lead in just over an hour, but the Georgian pushed back. BBC Sport writes, "Basilashvili's approach was all or nothing...although unforced errors outstripped winners in the opening two sets before he began to find his range in the third. Twenty-three winners from his racquet forced Nadal to face some uncomfortable moments. Despite fatigue appearing to kick in before the breaker, Basilashvili found some energy reserves to outfight his illustrious opponent and take the match further." Finally, Basilashvili's strength waned and in the fourth set, the Spaniard broke out into a 4-3 lead to end the match victorious. 

After the match, Nadal reflected, "He was hitting the ball very strong, it felt like I wasn't controlling the points."

Basilashvili has had a strong showing in the tournament. The NY Times wrote that he has "given Georgians something to cheer about." Responding to the positive energy, Basilashvili said, “A lot of people were supporting me, so it feels really good.”

By Samantha Guthrie

Photo: Karsten Moran for The New York Times

03 September 2018 21:12