A lethargic world number one Rafael Nadal suffered a stunning upset at the ATP Cup on Friday, crashing in two tough sets to Belgium’s David Goffin.
The Spaniard was heavily favoured to win the match and secure Spain a berth in the semi-finals after Roberto Bautista Agut eased past Kimmer Coppejans 6-1, 6-4 in the first singles match.
But the 19-time Grand Slam winner slumped 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) to the 11th-ranked Belgium — a rare defeat for Nadal while playing for his country.
It sent the tie into a decisive doubles match to determine who meets Australia in the last four.
“I had to hold my nerve for a long time, which wasn’t easy,” Goffin said.
“I knew against Rafa I had to take the ball early and take more risk. I was in the court trying to dictate and he had to find a solution.”
Spain’s group games during the round-robin phase of the inaugural team event were played in Perth, where the air was much drier.
Nadal, who had not dropped a set this year before meeting Goffin, faced not only heat but energy-sapping humidity in Sydney and struggled to deal with it, dripping in sweat for much of the match.
He was not on song and struggled to find his rhythm, giving away nine break points in the first set.
Goffin had two more break points to go 5-3 up in the second, but Nadal clung on and became more offensive to take the match to a tiebreak before the Belgian closed out the match for one of the biggest wins in his career.