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May 9, 2024 1:53 pm

Rafael Nadal rallies to win opening match in Rome

rafael nadal roland garros semifinal

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.

Other early winners on Thursday included Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil, Dominik Koepfer of Germany, Italians Matteo Gigante and Stefano Napolitano, Serbs Miomir Kecmanovic and Hamad Medjedovic, Jaume Munar of Spain and Corentin Moutet of France.

–Field Level Media

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