Aussie killer Nadal fires Demon warning
It began relatively evenly despite the weight of support that always falls to the Spaniard,
For almost seven games it was nip and tuck, the communal oohs and the ahhs steadily falling behind Matt Ebden as he traded blows if only for parity.
Rafael Nadal starts almost every match as crowd favourite and to stem the tide momentarily, even for an Aussie, is some achievement.
And then, almost as quickly the set was done, a couple of flashes of the thunderous from the man from Majorca were all it took to quell any thought of Ebden exceeding his minimum three sets allowance.
Yet he didn't play badly, far from it.
The 2019 Rafa is a marginally changed player, springier and a little leaner perhaps, throwing in frequent dinks in the midst of the familiar and relentless bludgeoning.
His service is much more of a weapon, no longer a mere game starter, his mental fortitude as rippling as ever.
Should injury hold off this fortnight, only a fool would bet against him making the final Sunday.
On court afterwards, John McEnroe put it to Rafa that he 'looked unreal'.
Playing it down, Nadal placed much emphasis on his revamped serve.
"I think I did a few things very well, my forehand and my serve," he said.
"We are getting old, we need to improve things, to serve better to play longer. To change something so that sometimes you come alive."
He also gave an insight into his habits of methodically lining up his water bottles courtside, just so, every match.
It's not a part of his work he takes home he told McEnroe.
"It's only on court and only when I am competing."
At the end of the penultimate game Ebden threw his racquet to the floor in frustration. It was entirely understandable.
Remarkably, they have played just once before and that was seven and a half years ago. Ebden will not lose any sleep should it be a similar time frame before they meet again.
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