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Nadal fights back to reach second round in Rome

May 10th, 2024

Rafael Nadal has won the Italian Open a record 10 times [EPA]

Rafael Nadal continued his French Open preparation by fighting back from a set down to beat Belgian qualifier Zizou Bergs in the opening round of the Italian Open in Rome.

The former world number one, a 10-time champion in the Italian capital, won 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Nadal, 37, has indicated he plans to retire after the 2024 season.

Although not at his best, the Spaniard said he “found a way to win” on his favoured clay surface as he builds up to what is expected to be his final appearance at the French Open later this month.

“My game is more unpredictable than before, I haven’t played much tennis for two years but I think I can do better than that,” Nadal added.

Having made his return from a three-month injury absence at the Barcelona Open in April, Nadal reached the last 16 of the Madrid Open last week before falling to Czech player Jiri Lehecka.

In Italy, Nadal got off to a tough start on the surface he has so long favoured.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion broke for 3-1 in the opening set but Bergs, ranked 108 in the world, immediately cancelled out the advantage before a double fault gifted the 24-year-old the break and he served out the set.

But, after a medical emergency in the crowd halted play one game into the second set, Nadal looked much more comfortable.

He quickly raced to a 3-0 lead and this time kept his composure, unleashing a forehand winner and fist pumping towards the crowd as he levelled the match.

Nadal once again broke early in the third set before overturning a 40-0 deficit and saving three break points to move 4-2 ahead.

A powerful forehand winner eventually secured the win and booked Nadal’s place in the second round, where he will face Polish world number nine Hubert Hurkacz.

“I have Roland Garros in just two weeks and a half,” said Nadal. “I need to prove myself if I am able to push my body to the limit, I need to push to feel myself ready for what’s coming.

“I am not talking only about Roland Garros. I am talking about the next match. I need to lose this fear. Matches like today help.

“Some moments I was moving faster. Some moments not. I need to get used to that, to take that risk. I feel more ready to try it than before.”

Britain’s Jack Draper also made it through to the second round with a 7-5 6-1 win against Croatia‘s Borna Coric.

Draper served eight aces and did not face any break points as he also hit 22 winners in the win to set up a second round match against defending champion Daniil Medvedev.

Fellow Briton Dan Evans faces Italian Fabio Fognini in Rome.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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