Rafa Nadal, playing his first match at the Foro Italico following his quarter-final loss to Alexander Zverev at last week’s Madrid Masters, declared himself happy with his performance in overcoming Jannik Sinner in straight sets, but not so with the scheduling by the organisers of the Rome Masters.
I know how good he is and the shots he has. He has great shots when he’s running. He has always great comebacks from tough positions.” Rafa Nadal
Nadal recovered three times from being a break down to the Italian teenage prodigy Sinner but rallied to win through into the third round, 7-5 6-4.
Sinner, who gave the Spaniard a tough match at last year’s French Open, was prepared for another tight encounter as he took the match to the second seed with some heavy hitting, keeping the ball low only for the 19-year-old to come up short at the critical moments.
Too many errors with a couple double faults helped Nadal who finally took the opener on his seventh break point.
Again, in the second, it was Sinner who dd the initial running only to see the match turned around by his experienced opponent who broke Sinner for the match on his fourth match point.
“Have been a positive match for me,” Nadal acknowledged later. “I think I did a lot of things well. I played a solid match. Happy in a lot of positive things against a very tough player like Jannik, no? Yeah, very pleased with the victory.
“I hit some very good forehands, cross-courts too to avoid his great backhand cross, and then he has a great change down the line,” he said.
“Is not a surprise for me. No, I know how good he is and the shots he has. He has great shots when he’s running. He has always great comebacks from tough positions.”
Sinner certainly showed how talented he is having led in both sets and considering he won’t be celebrating his 20th birthday until August, he has plenty of time to fulfil his potential but nonetheless, wasn’t pleased at letting his leads slip away.
“For sure I’m more disappointed and especially sad today, because we both played quite high-level match,” Sinner said. “Now it’s tough to accept that I’m already out because, you know, the first set I was up twice with break, and the second set I was up with break.
“It’s tough to accept, because obviously I think Roland Garros was more like a test to see where I am and, you know, this time I knew that I could have and maybe today I should have done something more.
“He handled the situations a little bit better today than me. So I think he deserve to win today.”
Nadal will now face Denis Shapovalov on Thursday, the Canadian having dispatched the Italian wildcard Stefano Reavaglia, 7-6(2) 6-3.
However, the Spaniard is displeased at having played the last match on Wednesday, he is being brought back on court at 1.00pm giving him little time to relax.
As he told the press conference: “Unfortunately, the press conference can’t last for long, as I have to play early tomorrow.
“The action starts at 10:00 am, and my match is scheduled third, so I can play at around 13:00. That wouldn’t be a problem in normal circumstances, but not in this one. It’s 21:40 now, and we could have gone into the third set.
“Tomorrow, I have to be at Foro Italico already at 11:30 and wait for my match if something unexpected happens. The schedule doesn’t hurt me, but I think it’s not OK.
“The order of play usually comes from the tournament director and someone from the ATP, and I think they made the wrong decision. I’m not angry, but that’s how I feel,” Rafael Nadal.
In other action Stefanos Tsitsipas had an easy day rolling past former US Open champion Marin Cilic 7-5 6-2 and sets up an intriguing match against Matteo Berrettini, last week’s finalist at Madrid, who beat Aussie John Millman 6-4 6-2.
Alexander Zverev, last week’s champion, kept his run going as he cruised past the Bolivian qualifier Huge Dellien 6-2 6-2.
Also through is Austria’s Dominic Thiem, the fourth seed, who advanced by rallying past Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, 3-6 7-6(5) 6-0, recovering not only from a set and a break down, but also in the second set tie-break where he trailed 4-5.
“In that exact moment, I was just focused to win the next point,” Thiem said on finding himself two points away from defeat.
“I was down all the time. You know, first set I lost and then second I was a break down. Tiebreak I was 4-5 down. So until that point, 5-All, I was down all the match.
“So I told myself, Well, this is the chance now to go up for the first time in the whole match. It’s also, if I win the point, it’s a chance to win the set, no? That’s what went through my mind. Luckily I took it.”
In contrast the third seeded Daniil Medvedev’s bad run on clay continued as he lost ot his Russian compatriot Aslan Karatsev 6-2 6-4.
Andrey Rublev, Roberto Bautista Agut, Lorenzo Sonego and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina were also winners. Davidovich Fokina will now meet the world No.1 Novak Djokovic on Thursday.
“It’s gonna be a big challenge, but I’m so excited to play tomorrow against Djokovic,” Davidovich Fokina said. “I knew him because we train, we practice a lot of times in Marbella. I know how he play, how he thinks. Then I will not be surprised how he’s gonna play tomorrow.
“I have to be more solid, to be more passions, because he’s a very solid player. He attacks, he defends so well. I have to come tomorrow to play my game, to do my best game.”
Oher second round winners include Felix Auger-Aliassime, Federico Delbonis, Reilly Opelka and Kei Nishikori.