Brisbane International 2017
by MAC

Rafa normally spends this week in Doha but he decided on a change this year, saying, "I like to know different places. It's true that Doha worked well for me in the past, but here Brisbane is something that probably will help me to adapt for me quicker to the Australian conditions that are always a little bit tougher in terms of weather, no?"

After some very cute koala cuddling at Dreamworld Australia, Rafa didn't have long to get over his jet lag before he had to face a tricky opponent - Alexandr Dolgopolov. (I still shudder when remembering their last two encounters.)

We had to wait a little longer than hoped when the preceding ladies' match went on for three interminable sets. It was nearly 10:30pm local time before he hit the first shot. It was a bit nail-biting when Dolgopolov got the first break of serve but Rafa turned things around pretty quickly and went on to record a 6-3, 6-3 win.

"It's tough to play against him. He's able to -- he play little bit Kamikaze, you know. He's little bit -- very aggressive with all the shots. It's difficult to construct a point with him, no, because you cannot expect to hit, I gonna hit one ball there and one ball to other side and then try to hit a winner. Because you hit one ball there and maybe the one he miss or he plays a winner, so he plays a bomb. So it's difficult to prepare your match against him.

"The break, I had one mistake, and then he played two good points. Then in the last point, he played dropshot. I arrived well but I missed. I don't understand where he's going, and he plays a good volley and had the break.

"But in all the games at the beginning, I had 15-30, 15-30, and then I had the break. It was important to keep believing on what I was doing and I did. I feel I played a solid match."

He'd never played Mischa Zverev before so we didn't know what to expect. It was lovely, therefore to see him make 30 winners against only 7 unforced errors to record a 6-1, 6-1 win.

"I played a great match. Itís difficult to say something negative, because in general I saw after, on the video screen, like, 30 winners and just a few unforced errors. I was returning very well, I think. A lot of great passing shots. The only thing, I am not sure about was my percentage of serves. I think that was not that good tonight."

I wasn't too worried about his quarter final against Milos Raonic since he'd beaten him last week. All looked to be going well when Rafa took the first set but Raonic played much better (23 aces, anybody?) and a dodgy patch at the end of the second and beginning of the third set cost Rafa the match. 6-4, 3-6, 4-6.

"I think I had 10 minutes that was very hard, and playing against a player like him, that's terrible, no?

"Well, I lost against third of the world. Very close match. I had been playing six matches already this year. That's positive for me, winning five, losing the sixth.

"But a close result, no? It's important to win a lot of matches, of course, but at the same time it's important to -- when I lose, it's important to lose with just a small difference.

"So that's what happened today, and that's, at the same time, with being negative, because losing always is negative. But the result was so close, and that's positive, no? Because that mean that my mind was ready to keep fighting until the end, and that's what I did."

Vamos Rafa