Three years ago, world no. 1 Rafael Nadal made a winning start in Shanghai, ousting the young American Jared Donaldson 6-2, 6-1 in 54 minutes. It was one of three quickest Masters 1000 victories for the Spaniard in the completed matches, dominating Jared on both serve and return to seal the deal in no time.
Competing against Nadal for the first time, Donaldson was off to a great start, delivering two holds at love and moving 30-15 up on the return in game five. From that moment, Nadal was the only player on the court, rattling off 42 out of the last 55 points to race over the finish line in under an hour.
Everything worked perfectly for a 16-time Major champion on both serve and return, dropping four points in his games and conquering almost half of the return points, creating 11 break chances and converting four to control the pace and move into the next round.
It was a masterclass performance from Nadal when we talk about the first groundstroke after serve, scoring eight winners with that shot and placing balls in the way that gave him an instant advantage. Rafa created an open space like it was the easiest thing, spreading Jared over the baseline and opening the court for a ruthless execution.
Nadal implemented the same tactics on the return, surviving ten service winners from the American (six in the opening two service games) and seizing full control once he would crack the opponent’s serve pattern.
In Shanghai 2017, Rafael Nadal lost four points on serve against Donaldson.
Donaldson didn’t have the power or depth in his shots to move Nadal from the zone and force more errors, getting only eight errors in total from the Spaniard and making 20 of his own, including five double faults. Rafa never took his foot off the pedal, charging from start to finish with a fantastic serving display and pushing his opponent to the limits with well-balanced groundstrokes that Donaldson had no answer for.
The Spaniard had more free points, with a 14-10 advantage in service winners, making a massive difference from the court after blasting 17 winners (ten from his forehand) against only six from the youngster. As we already said, Nadal stayed on eight mistakes (four from each wing), an impressive number considering how aggressive he was.
On the other hand, Jared had eight unforced and seven forced errors, together with those five double faults that broke his rhythm and confidence. The American won just two points after missing the first serve, and there was no way he could score a better result in this one, especially in the second set when Nadal flew over the court.
It was a match with quick exchanges, with Rafa having a 5-3 edge in the most extended rallies and a more notable 11-4 advantage in the mid-range ones from five to eight strokes. Nonetheless, the Spaniard made the most significant difference in the shortest points up to four shots, taking 35 out of 52 mainly thanks to that explosive first groundstroke that brought him many points or set the rally in the way he wanted.