Due to appendicitis, Rafael Nadal missed the 2014 ATP Finals and Paris Masters and had surgery on November 3. After winning the Roland Garros championship that year, the Spaniard struggled with form and injury and had a slow start to the 2015 season.
Rafa failed to win the title on clay during the spring swing for the first time since 2004 after losing in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and Indian Wells. After barely making it out of the top 10, Nadal recovered by winning in Stuttgart and enjoying himself on grass for the first time in five years.
After suffering early defeats at Queen’s and Wimbledon, the Spaniard took some time off before making a comeback on clay in Hamburg at the end of July. Since winning the championship in 2008, Nadal hadn’t played in Hamburg, and it had been eight years since he had competed in a clay event after Wimbledon.
In the first game, Rafa got off to a rough start and fell to Fernando Verdasco in the opening set. After losing two games in sets two and three, Nadal accelerated and overcame his colleague. The situation against the young Czech Jiri Vesely in round two was not much better.
In a grueling 6-4, 7-6 triumph that took two hours and eleven minutes, Rafa took four breaks. The former champion outperformed himself in the quarterfinal to defeat Pablo Cuevas and outran Andreas Seppi in the semifinals to advance to the championship match.
Rafa defeated Fabio Fognini after a two-hour, 34-minute struggle, winning 7-5, 7-5 to win his third championship of the year and the biggest since Roland Garros last year. The Spanish player had to put in a lot of effort to win by a margin of 14 points over the Italian.
Before tie breaks or a decider, Nadal stopped nine of 14 break attempts and earned seven breaks to win the match.
In 2015, Rafael Nadal defeated Fabio Fognini to win the Hamburg title.
Fognini kept the points on his racquet and had twice as many wins.
Nevertheless, he committed 60 unforced errors, ruining his chances for at least one set. Rafa fought Fabio in the lengthy battles but fell behind in the fast-paced rallies, when the Spaniard won. After 12 minutes of an all-out battle, Fognini scored on his fourth break opportunity.
Fabio’s successful forehand in the following match gave Rafa the advantage back, but he made the identical error in the third match and fell behind 2-1. After 30 minutes, Nadal broke back for the second time in game four to tie the match at 2-2. We had yet to witness a hold.
To maintain a good attitude and keep up with the pace set by the Spaniard, the Italian won games six and eight. Rafa’s flawless drop shot in the 11th game prevented a break point from being lost during yet another marathon. He won the first set 7-5 in 77 minutes by intercepting Fognini‘s serve with a winning return!
The second game of the second set saw three break attempts blocked by Fabio. However, he was unable to duplicate that when Rafa went up 3-1 after his forehand landed long two games later. To keep Fognini alive, Nadal blew two game points in game five and was broken.
The Italian took advantage of yet another opportunity in game seven to win three games in a row and take the lead. In game eight, Rafa battled back from a 40-15 disadvantage to score four points in a row and cut the gap in half. Nadal failed to capitalize on that by getting broken again a short while later, falling behind 5-4.
In game 10, Fognini had two set points on serve but blew a huge opportunity to win the set. He squandered two set points, allowing Nadal to break back to secure a 5-5 tie. In the eleventh game, the Spaniard had to fight hard, fending off three break points to gain momentum and apply pressure on the opposition.
At 6-5, Rafa won four straight games on the return to cross the finish line and win his first ATP 500 championship in an 18-month period.