Last year, Rafael Nadal failed to reach the semi-finals in Monte Carlo and Madrid. The Spaniard was keen to change that at the last clay court Masters 1000 of the season in Rome.
In search of a tenth crown at Foro Italico, Rafa faced the toughest second-round contender early in the event, taking on local star Yannick Sinner.
Nadal won 7-5, 6-4 in the last game of Wednesday’s schedule, ending the clash around 9:20 pm and heading into a short press conference. Knowing tomorrow’s schedule, Rafa couldn’t spend much time with reporters, saying he needed to rest as he had to play again around 13:00 on Thursday.
Rafa and Denis Shapovalov will join center court when Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty finish their matches, and the Spaniard wasn’t happy when he saw the schedule. Rafa said that under normal circumstances it would be possible to play around 13:00, but not this time, especially if he and Yannick reach the decisive set.
Nadal ended the game against Sinner with a score of 21:20.
Timing aside, Rafa played a good match against Sinner. He made three breaks and stole the pitch from the youngster five times, sealing the game in just over two hours and advancing to the playoffs.
Unlike what happened to Zverev in Madrid, where he barely scored a few straight points, Rafa played much more aggressive tennis in Rome. He controlled the pace and beat the young player in the shortest and most advanced plays.
They traded four breaks in the first six games and after that Rafa had three great doubles to keep the pressure on Yannick. The Spaniard took the seventh set point in the 12th game, finished the first leg in 70 minutes and took the lead.
Sinner took a 4-2 lead in the second set, playing well and looking good to secure a tiebreak. But Nadal switched to high speed and played four games in a row to get the upper hand and not spend more time on the court in front of another dangerous opponent.
“Unfortunately, the press conference won’t last long as it’s too early to play tomorrow. The action starts at 10:00 and my match is scheduled for third place.
This means that I can play around 13:00. It wouldn’t be a problem under normal circumstances, but not in this one. It’s 21:40 now and we could move on to the third set.
Tomorrow I will have to be at Foro Italico from 11:30 and wait for my match in case of unforeseen circumstances. The schedule is not a hindrance to me, but I think it’s wrong. The match order usually comes from the tournament director and someone from the ATP and I think they made the wrong decision. I’m not angry, but I feel that way, ”said Rafael Nadal.