Rafael Nadal follows Roger Federer’s feat after Rome
Last week Rafael Nadal won the 36th Masters 1000 title, tying Novak Djokovic’s record and achieving the fourth “La Decima”. Rafa made his Rome debut in 2005 and made it an instant success, winning 68 out of 75 matches and winning ten titles.
Nadal suffered just one loss heading into the quarter-finals, appearing in the last eight games 16 times and winning another impressive record. In April, Nadal played his 16th Monte Carlo Masters quarter-final, repeating it at Foro Italico and becoming the second player after Roger Federer with at least 16 quarter-finals in several ATP tournaments!
Jimmy Connors made it at the US Open, followed by Roger Federer, who has no less than 17 quarter-finals at Wimbledon, Halle and Basel. Rafa’s 16th quarter-final in Rome came after victories over young guns Jannik Sinner and Denis Shapovalov, with the Spaniard on the way out against the latter!
Nadal faced compatriot Jannik Sinner in the second round and beat a teenager 7-5, 6-4 in two hours and ten minutes. Sinner threw everything he had at Rafa, but that wasn’t enough to stay competitive and force a decider, despite leading in both sets.
The Spaniard did not play well against Alexander Zverev in Madrid and was determined to solve this problem in Rome and produce more aggressive and dynamic tennis. Rafa finished the clash with 25 winners and 21 unforced errors, shooting 19 straight points from his forehand and looking good on the pitch despite the three breaks he suffered.
Rafael Nadal is the second player with 16 quarter-finals in two ATP tournaments.
Jannik couldn’t keep up with this pace, failing to penetrate Rafa and facing 15 break points, breaking five times to experience an early exit.
Nadal had the upper hand in the shorter and longer rallies and did not allow his opponent to dictate the rally, leaving the court satisfied with his performance. Jannik was ahead twice in Game 1, wasting that and ending up 7-5 down.
Nadal had to dig deep from 4-2 in the second set, triggering four straight games to seal the deal without having to play a decider. The Spaniard was one point away from reaching the quarterfinals for only the second time in Rome, defeating Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after saving two match points in the 12th game of the decisive set!
Denis played aggressive tennis from start to finish, dismissing over 40 winners and keeping in touch with the clay king in the shortest and middle rallies. Nadal came back 6-3, 3-0, 40-30, remaining calm and stealing the second set to extend the game and its chances.
The Canadian paused in the final set before the Spaniard cleared the deficit, playing better and creating more chances at 5-5. Shapovalov saved some break points and won those two match points in Game 12, which Nadal pushed back to stay alive and took the tie-break victory.
It was Nadal’s 16th victory after saving at least one match point, showing his well-known fighting spirit and refusing to make it to one of his favorite events. Rafa qualified for his 16th Rome Open quarter-final and defeated Alexander Zverev, Reilly Opelka and Novak Djokovic to celebrate the tenth crown, 16 years after winning the first.