HomeTennisRafael Nadal battles past Bergs in Italian Open first round

Rafael Nadal battles past Bergs in Italian Open first round


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Rome: Ten-time champion Rafa Nadal overcame losing the opening set to defeat Belgian qualifier Zizou Bergs 4-6 6-3 6-4 and reach the Italian Open second round in Rome on Thursday, as the Spaniard’s steady progress continued.

Nadal, who last won the title in Rome in 2021, was given a stiff test by the 24-year-old in a match which lasted almost three hours on centre court, and now faces Polish seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz.

“That was not my best match, I was practising better than I played today, but I found a way to win,” said Nadal.

Bounced back

The 37-year-old former world No 1 broke first to make it 3-1 in the opening set, but Bergs bounced back immediately with a break of his own, and broke again to make it 5-4 before holding serve to take the set.

Nadal steadied himself and made an impressive start to the second set, taking a 3-0 lead after an early break and winning both service games to love, and although Bergs forced break points in two later games, Nadal held on.

The deciding set brought another early break for Nadal to take a 2-1 lead. Bergs then had four break points when 4-2 down, but lost his chance to get back into the match and Nadal finished off the job.

After spending most of last year out with a hip injury, his return in January was cut short after a muscle tear in Brisbane, but last month he reached the second round in Barcelona and the fourth round in Madrid, as he builds up to the French Open.

“My game is more unpredictable than before, I didn’t play much tennis for the last two years so have had some ups and downs, on and off, but I think I can do much better than today and I hope to do it next round,” Nadal said.

Nadal’s second round tie with Hurkacz will be his first match against the Polish 27-year-old.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic takes part in a training session during the Men’s ATP Rome Open tennis tournament at Foro Italico in Rome on Thursday.
Image Credit: AFP

Top form

Novak Djokovic said he is building up to hit top form for his French Open title defence, after the world No 1 skipped last month’s Madrid Masters and arrived early in Rome to continue his preparations for the year’s second Grand Slam.

The Serb last competed at the Monte Carlo Masters in April where he lost to Casper Ruud in the semi-finals, and the record 24-times Grand Slam champion is still seeking his first trophy of the season.

The 37-year-old, who has split with long-time coach Goran Ivanisevic, is currently working with former doubles world No 1 Nenad Zimonjic and said he was happy with his progress ahead of Roland Garros starting on May 26.

“I had plenty of time to also rest and train. I had a good training block. I arrived (in Rome) two days ago to get a hit on the centre court, obviously stay four-five days training before my first match with top players,” Djokovic told reporters.

Good route

“Obviously it’s different when you train with them, playing practice sets, seeing where your game is at and working your way towards the fine form for the first official match.

“I think I’m on a good route to peak at Roland Garros in Paris. Hopefully here in Rome I can play better than I did in Monte Carlo.” Djokovic also parted ways with fitness coach Marco Panichi and said he had rehired Gebhard Gritsch as he targets success in the Grand Slams and the Paris Olympics.

“We know each other really well. That’s why I feel we’re synchronised from the very beginning in terms of what we want to do, how we want to approach the programme of training on and off the court. With Nenad as well,” Djokovic added.

“I’m pleased with the way the last 10-14 days went in terms of training, in terms of preparation and looking ahead to this tournament, but particularly Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Olympic Games.”

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