The nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal will have to work hard at Foro Italico in the second round on Wednesday, facing the fellow top-20 star and the home favorite Jannik Sinner. Nadal hasn’t played well during the clay-court swing this spring, losing in the quarter-final in Monte Carlo and Madrid and winning the Barcelona Open title after fending off a match point against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Last week, Rafa couldn’t do much against Alexander Zverev, standing powerless on the court and hitting under ten winners. On the other hand, the German controlled the pace with aggressive hitting and almost 30 winners, stealing Nadal’s serve thrice and overcoming an early deficit to hold the strings of the match in his hands and show Rafa the exit door. Nadal will try to bounce back in Rome, as he did two years ago, seeking the tenth title and momentum ahead of the most important tournament of his season in Paris.
The Spaniard will have to produce his best tennis right from the start to avoid the earliest Rome exit since 2008, with Jannik Sinner seeking his first victory over the rivals from the top. The Italian secured his 50th ATP victory against Ugo Humbert, beating the Frenchman 6-2, 6-4 to set the second clash against Nadal.
Rafael Nadal and Jannik Sinner will battle in the Rome Open second round.
Sinner lost 16 points in nine service games, facing only one break point and securing four return games from 14 chances to sail into the next round. Jannik had 14 winners and 32 unforced errors, losing ground slightly in the shortest range up to four strokes but erasing that deficit in the more extended exchanges to seal the deal in straight sets.
The Italian served well in the opener and grabbed two breaks in games three and five for 6-2. They traded breaks early in the second set, and Sinner delivered another at 2-2 that sent him in front. Never looking back, a teenager brought the victory home with three commanding holds and secured the 11th Masters 1000 win. Nadal and Sinner met once at Roland Garros last year, with the Spaniard scoring a hard-fought 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 triumph. The Italian served for the opening set and was a break up in the second before Rafa shifted into a higher gear to move over the top in just under three hours and terminate the youngster’s journey in the quarters.