Rafael Nadal was once against pushed to the very brink on his favorite surface. Today, at the Rome Masters, the 9-time tournament champ was though to have a straightforward day against the Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
But Shapovalov had other things in mind. The youngster came out red hot, dominating Nadal early. Rafa was unable to get anything going on serve while Shapovalov was sizzling.
The 22-year-old took the opener then had a point for a double-break 4-0 in the second. That went by the wayside but serving 3-1 he had multiple chances for 4-1 and that’s when things changed.
Nadal began to find the range on the forehand while Shapovalov’s level, particularly his serve, dropped.
Rafa began to dominate to force a third. However, Shapovalov wouldn’t get down, instead he got a break and led 3-1 before another Nadal comeback.
With the wind swirling and dust flying, Nadal was the strong on serve. The Spaniard faced two match points at 5-6 but managed to hold serve. And he then jumped to a 6-2 lead in the breaker and took it 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) in a 3.5 hour marathon.
“Is an important victory for me,” Nadal said. “To be able to win these kind of matches against young players give me confidence with my body. It’s true that I have to do things better for tomorrow.
“But the main thing today for me is recover physically,” he said. “Have been a positive victory for me. I fighted until the end a lot to be in quarterfinals.
Added Shapovalov, “That’s why he’s won so many matches on clay. I mean, obviously he’s a great player. There’s no question about that… Of course, there’s a lot of positives. In the end I lost, so that’s it. As far as this week, it’s much better level-wise than the previous weeks. That’s how athletes are. If you lose, you lose. It’s not very positive.”
Nadal won’t have much time to recover. Tomorrow he gets a rematch from last week against Alexander Zverev. The German won his seventh straight match rallying to beat Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Earlier in the day, Novak Djokovic had an easy afternoon breezing past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-1. He’ll now take on Stefanos Tsitsipas who bested Matteo Berrettini 7-6(3), 6-2.
Djokovic leads the Greek 4-2 with their last meeting at the French semifinal going five sets won by the Serb.
“Obviously tomorrow is going to be a huge challenge for me,” Djokovic said. “I’m going to be ready for it. I’ve been practicing well and feeling good. I’ll make sure I prepare myself well for the next match.”
Said Tsitsipas, “He can play on all surfaces. We played each other at Roland Garros. I see this as an opportunity for me to do something better this time. I hope to be able to play the same tennis that I have been playing so far and be a challenge for him.”
With 18 aces, Reilly Opelka served his way past Aslan Karatsev 7-6(6), 6-4. He’ll next face qualifier Federico Delbonis who ousted Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6(3), 6-1.
Andrey Rublev toppled Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4. Up next won’t be his buddy Dominic Thiem, instead it will be the last Italian standing Lorenzo Sonego who stunned Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5). After splitting sets, the two had to leave the court for about 20 minutes to allow for fans to leave under the COVID curfew rule — this was the first day of limited fans. Sonego, though, came out the stronger player getting out to 2-0 in the decider.
Thiem would fight back and eventually go up 5-3 but couldn’t close the deal, and it cost him in the breaker.
“It’s amazing, an unbelievably emotional moment for me because I’m in Rome, in my Italy with fans for two sets,” Sonego said on court. “I’m so happy for this victory, for this match. Thiem is with Nadal the best player on clay.”
ROME FRIDAY SCHEDULE
Center Court Starts At 10:00 Am
Petra Martic v Jessica Pegula
Not Before 12:00 Noon
6 Alexander Zverev v 2 Rafael Nadal
1 Novak Djokovic v 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas
Not Before 6.00PM
15 Iga Swiatek v 5 Elina Svitolina
Grand Stand Arena Starts At 10:00 Am
QF (Q) Federico Delbonis v Reilly Opelka
Not Before 12.00PM
9 Karolina Pliskova v Jelena Ostapenko
1 Ashleigh Barty v Cori Gauff
Not Before 7:00 Pm
QF Lorenzo Sonego v 7 Andrey Rublev
You Might Like:
Zverev Rolls Past Shapovalov, Will Meet Thiem For Madrid Title
Djokovic To Face Schwartzman For Rome Masters Title
Nadal, Djokovic Lead Rome Masters; King Of Clay Seeks 10th Title
Novak Djokovic: Thiem Will Step It Up And Try Something Special Against Me
Thiem Ends Nadal Streak In Madrid, Zverev Advances To 3rd Straight Masters SF