Rafael Nadal posts throwback win in five-set battle against teen


Sandra Harwitt, Special for USA TODAY Sports

Published 7:05 a.m. ET Jan. 21, 2017 | Updated 31 minutes ago

MELBOURNE — Rafael Nadal, the Spanish conquistador of tennis, has made a career of wearing down opponents, and although the past few years haven’t seen his best, on Saturday he delivered a stunning throwback performance.

The former No. 1, now 30 years old and, once again, on the comeback trail, was facing the future of the game in 19-year-old Alexander Zverev of Germany. The 24th-seeded Zverev, tall and lanky, and in possession of a mega-serve, is willing to take risks. One day that talent will likely make him a champion, but for now it was the 14-time Grand Slam champion who was the more domineering.

Besides for a tentative first set where he was visibly nervous and hitting balls too short, it was vintage Nadal out there — the warrior with instinctive survival skills as he claimed a 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2…

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