As soon as we saw the draw we knew this wasn't going to be pretty. As jharper said in the General thread, "Well, I usually am pretty positive- a one match at a time woman, but this really does suck."
First up for Rafa was Philipp Kohlschreiber. Granted, he's only beaten Rafa once (in Halle in 2012) and Rafa beat him three weeks ago in Barcelona, but still, not an ideal first match. Especially when there were lots of rumours about Rafa having wrist issues. He stopped off in Barcelona to see the doctor after Madrid and pictures of wrist taping were coming out of his practice sessions.
In the end, it wasn't too bad. Rafa came through with the same score as Barcelona - 6-3, 6-3. This article in vavel.com gives a good summary of the match.
After that, we knew it was going to get ugly. Rafa's next opponent was Nick Kyrigos, a player Rafa believes to be one of the best of the new generation. Their previous meeting, at Wimbledon 2014, is one we'd all like to forget.
Rafa said this before the match, "Tomorrow is a tough match against a player that is for sure today one of the best players of the world. He play well today against a tough opponent like Raonic, so will be a tough match for me. I need to be playing very well tomorrow, and it's an opportunity to play against a great player. I'm excited about it."
Excited was not the word I would have chosen to describe my feelings prior to this match. I hid behind the sofa for the duration.
It was tough. Very tough. After losing the first set on a tiebreak (he really needs to do better in tiebreaks) Rafa had to battle hard win the match, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4
This video shows just how tricky some of the points were.
Rafa played it down in his press conference, "I'm playing well, I feel like I am playing at the right level. Today was important victory for me, of course, against a very difficult opponent", but he has to have been encouraged by this win.
He went on to lose a close match to Novak Djokovic, 5-7, 6-7(4) in the quarter finals.
"I am playing well. So happy in a very close match, and I have to congratulate him. He played, I think, great. And that's it. He's winning a lot, so probably that makes a difference.
"No, when somebody is winning as much as he is doing last year and months, two years, we know the dynamics are so important. He was hitting great shots in important moments, no? That's it.
"But I am playing well. I think I am playing well during the whole clay court season. It's true that in Madrid I didn't play well the last two matches against Joao and especially the last two sets against Joao Sousa in quarterfinals, and semifinals against Andy I didn't play very well.
"But in general I'm playing well in the most of the matches most of the time. And today I was there mentally fighting for every point, hitting good shots. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if it's better for me best-of-five or best-of-three. Is something that I don't think about it now. The only thing that I think is I have been very, very, very close this afternoon, and that's positive.
"No, I was not disappointed. Well, it's obvious that when you feel that you are so close to take both sets, you know, it's obvious that you go out of the court and you feel that you cannot be 100% happy.
"But overall I am playing well. As I said before, I have been competing at the highest level against the best player. Play a match like this, best player of the world, that's the only thing that give me the confidence that I am ready for the things."
Siempre contigo, Rafa