Rafael Nadal rallies to win opening match in Rome

League: Tennis

Posted on: 10 May, 2024 at 01:00 AM

Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Rafael Nadal trailed by a set against qualifier Zizou Bergs but rallied to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in his opening-round match at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Thursday in Rome.

Nadal, dominant on clay courts in his career, has won 10 times in Rome. Throughout 18 Italian Opens, he had lost just once in the opening round, but three double faults and two service breaks gave Bergs, of Belgium, the opening he needed to grab the first set and hope of winning the two-hour, 54-minute match.

"It was not my best match. I was practicing better than how I played today without a doubt but I found a way to win," Nadal said. "That is so important at the beginning of the tournament. My game is more unpredictable than before. I didn't play much tennis for the past two years, so it is up and down. I think I can do much better than I did today and hope I can do it in the next round."

Nadal, 37, has missed much of that time largely due to a hip injury. In what is expected to be his final ATP Tour season, the Spaniard undoubtedly wants a good showing in Rome leading to the French Open, which he has won a record 14 times.

In the second set, Nadal settled in and fought off five break points and converted two against Bergs, moving well on the court.

The packed house appreciated his play.

"It is always emotional to play here," Nadal said. "One of the most important events in my tennis career. The crowd has always been amazing with me, supporting me since the beginning of my tennis career, so super excited to play one more time here."

In the second round, Nadal will face seventh-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who had a first-round bye.

A few of Thursday's matches eclipsed the three-hour mark while needing three sets. Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands took down American foe Nicolas Moreno De Alboran 7-5, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4) in three hours, 18 minutes. Italy's Francesco Passaro rallied past France's Arthur Rinderknech in a tight affair, 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (7).

Passaro saved two match points in the eighth game of the second set to stave off an early exit. He saved one more match point during the third-set tiebreaker.

Other Italians to advance on Thursday were Matteo Arnaldi, Fabio Fognini, Matteo Gigante, Stefano Napolitano and Luca Nardi. Serbians are also well-represented, with Dusan Lajovic, Miomir Kecmanovic and Hamad Medjedovic winning their first matches.

Also moving on were American Marcos Giron, Aslan Karatsev of Russia, Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil, Germans Dominik Koepfer and Jan-Lennard Struff, Frenchmen Corentin Moutet and Alexandre Muller, Jack Draper of Great Britain and Spaniards Jaume Munar and Roberto Carballes Baena.

--Field Level Media