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News & Photos / Articles / Nadal crushes Croat Veic in good-spirited contest

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When Antonio Veic strolled onto Philippe Chatrier Court to play the biggest match of his life against Rafael Nadal, his face was beaming. This was the first time the no. 227-ranked qualifier had ever faced a top ten player, let alone the world no.1 and the contest was being staged before the biggest audience of his life. And while Nadal went on to polish off the match 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 it was clear the 23-year-old qualifier was intent on savouring every moment of this special experience.

Just two days earlier, an exuberant Veic had stripped off his shirt and catapulted it into the crowd following his incredible five-set victory over no.28 seed Nikolay Davydenko completed in the dying daylight hours. It was a significant win, marking the first time the Croat had won back-to-back matches at tour level, and all the more rewarding given that Veic has spent much of the year scratching out a living on the Challenger circuit, having only played two tour-level events.

This afternoon, as Veic prepared for the duel against nine-time Grand Slam champion Nadal, he soaked in the enormity of the occasion, casting furtive glances around the impressive stadium. Both men resembled each other in appearance, clad in brilliant blue shirts and white shorts and each sporting a headband, but that was where the similarity ended. Veic played a fantastic opening point, drilling balls back and forth before attacking the net to hit a winner, but soon fell by the wayside as he struggled to cope with Nadal's precision and depth of shot.

It was not until the fifth game that Veic found his feet. He was helped by a couple of netted balls by Nadal, but nonetheless played beautiful tennis and the crowd erupted in deafening applause as Veic finally got his first game on the scoreboard. It was to be the only one in that set however, which Rafa claimed in a speedy 26 minutes.

By the second set Veic's nerves had calmed as he pummelled the ball from the baseline with apparent ease and even secured an early break against the Spaniard. But it was a mere hiccup for Rafa who upped his game, broke back and took the set in 50 minutes. The top seed took a mighty tumble in the third when chasing a passing shot, with a concerned Veic enquiring after his well-being. The fall did little to affect Rafa's play - he simply brushed himself down and got back to the task in hand, claiming the final set without dropping a game. The match was a world apart from the Spaniard's gruelling first round encounter with John Isner, which lasted a minute over four hours and finished 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-4.

Despite his swift defeat, Veic was all smiles as he walked to the net to shake hands with Nadal, his respect for the no.1 seed written all over his face as he chatted happily to his conqueror. The match had finished but the Croat was still soaking up every moment of this special day and nothing was going to spoil it.

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