Rome Masters 2021: How tough is Rafael Nadal’s road to victory?

Draw for the 78th edition of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia has been made on Saturday.

Rafael Nadal will begin his title bid against the winner of Sinner’s first-round encounter against Ugo Humbert. He could meet Zverev for the second straight week. The German also features in a packed fourth quarter of the draw, which also includes last year’s Rome semi-finalist Denis Shapovalov, Marbella champion Pablo Carreno Busta and former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori.

Photo via Getty Images

Rafa’s potential route to the final:

  • 1st round: Bye
  • 2nd round: Jannik Sinner
  • 3rd round: Denis Shapovalov
  • Quarter-final: Alexander Zverev
  • Semi-final: Daniil Medvedev
  • Final: Novak Djokovic

If the men play to seed the quarter-final line up will be:

  • Novak Djokovic v Stefanos Tsitsipas
  • Dominic Thiem vs Andrey Rublev
  • Diego Schwartzman vs Daniil Medvedev
  • Alexander Zverev v Rafael Nadal

View Draw

Our champ will return to Rome with his sights set on a 10th title run at the Foro Italico. He owns a record 63 victories at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament and will be seeking his first trophy in Rome since 2019, when he defeated Novak Djokovic in a three-set championship match.


Source: ATP Tour


  1. Thank you Rafael Nadal so much for this report, and all your reports! I love the way you change the colours of the page elements to match his outfits too. I want his new racquet and bag… to celebrate that I am a huge fan of his. Great first match against Sinner. Letting him know who’s BOSS. Vamos!!!

  2. Well done to Rafa, despite the really bad first serve percentage. I’m glad he managed to avoid a tie-break in the first set, even though it took a couple of tries. Some wonderful highlight-reel-worthy shots in that match and I just wished there was a crowd to applaud them. Good to see the FHDTL working most of the time, it’s generally a sign of confidence.

  3. Congrats to Rafa! Rafa’s energy and confidence are back. His shot making too.. Serve is better but needs to be better still.

    Sinner looked very unhappy and disgusted at the end. Perhaps because it looked a lot like the first two sets at Roland-Garris.

    • Many congrats to Rafa to win a hard fought match in straight sets. It was a bit too exciting for my heart, though. I agree David. I was surprised by Sinner’s cool handshake, and he didn’t even make eye contact with Rafa. On to the 3rd round and another chance to cheer on our Champion.

      • That’s what a mean about the new-gens.The cold handshake the no eye contact! Rafa is ever so humble even in defeat! They have no personality! They are missing some elements that would give them the Stardom which Rafa & Roger have!

    • david… good analogy! Rafa was Rafa on clay today! Sinner is the whole package… his serve is great his angles are killer! Rafa has never had the best serve but he really has improved on it. I think Rafa has matured greatly and he has learned how to shorten the points. That’s was a great match!

  4. A very entertaining match! What a battle! What a champ! The win will give Rafa a much needed boost of confidence.

  5. Early days Rafa. Keep your cool and don’t be scared by the power at the other end. Good serving and no short balls PLEASE! Do it to him before he does it to you!!!

    • Phew! That was damn nerve-racking! Good win for Rafa.Sinner is definitely going to be one of the next-gens to break though. Have to admit I had to turn it off at times & peak at the scoreboard! I was watching Halep & there was really nothing visibly that happened. She must’ve just pulled a muscle in her calf and it was very painful.I thought Rafa looked stunning… A good match for him to prepare to play Dennis! Good Day for all of us! 💜💜💜Rafa!

    • I get nervous when Rafa uses the drop shot! I remember the Australian open with Novak that lasted over five hours… Rafa kept using the drop shot and it was not working! I’m not one to curse but I sure was that day! Have you ever noticed that you become Rafa‘s coach when he isn’t playing well? John McEnroe said the same thing… He didn’t know why he kept using the drop shot when he had the whole court open! I believe it cost him the match and that one hurt for a long time! Sorry to keep going down memory lane but it’s so good to be back with you guys!

    • Here we go! Rafa looking ready & willing to win! What’s up no fans in the stands? I haven’t been listening.There were fans in Spain.I guess Italy’s been hit again with the pandemic? Just saw Serena lose and now Halep is limping off the court.

      • I dudn’t see Halep’s match – such a shame for her. Serena looked match rusty. I guess her eyes are firmly set on Wimbledon.

  6. Hi Ziggy,

    Re your 10:11pm below, I believe you were talking about 2016. I will never forget that day.😥 I was so looking forward to watch Rafa in person at a GS, his favorite I think. I almost didn’t want to go to the airport later that day because Rafa was the reason I booked my tour, and I knew it wouldn’t be the same without Rafa playing. Anyway, I decided to go back in 2017, and thankfully this time I saw Rafa lifting his 10th FO trophy!🙏

    “Let’s be truthful here it’s been no walk in the park being a diehard Rafa fan!” I can’t agree more with you.

    Let’s enjoy Rafa while we can……Best to Rafa always, a champion on and off court!🥰

    • Thank you Mimi Lau! Wow what a disappointment for you! Don’t know what I would have done if that would have happened to me. I was actually angry with Rafa because there was no sign or talk of an injury until he was scheduled to play. However you are an ardent Rafa fan and traveled the next year to see him win his historic La Decima! Nope…No stroll in the park with Rafa! It’s tooth and nail all the way! Enjoy today…I’ve already put all my good wishes and prayers in!

      • Thank you David and Ziggy.🙏🙏

        👍 Good luck to Rafa.🍀🎾❤️

  7. SUERTE!! Rafa, te deseo lo mejor para este torneo, cuidate!!! SIEMPRE CONTIGO!!

  8. Rafa’s match tomorrow vs Sinner is scheduled for 6PM local time. It will probably be later as some of today’s matches were canceled due to rain.

    • Correction: the round of 64 should be completed today. Matches resumed after the rain delay. There were delays but no cancellations.

    • For U.S. fans Rafa v. Sinner will therefore begin not before Noon New York time, 11 a.m. Central.

      This figures to be an important match for Rafa’s preparation for the French Open. Obviously Rafa wants to win the tournament but at the same time in needs 3 or 4 Rome matches to be ready.

      He does have two weeks between Rome and Paris but a confidence booster in Rome could help a bunch.

      Go Rafa!

      • Congratulations champ!! 👍🏻👏🏻💪🏻🙌🏻👌🏻, well done!. You know, we know, the top 10 is and gonna be tough always. But you know you can still beat them all 💪🏻💪🏻🦌❤️.
        Good luck for tomorrow!! 😉.
        Contigo siempre, Vamos Rafa a por ellos GLADIADOR!! 💥🌪️🌊⚡🔥

  9. Genny SS
    Rafa on young players winning M1000 titles: “There is a new generation of players who are young & good and we’re the age we are. And this is a reality. We play and compete less and when you compete less there are more chances for things not to go too well.

  10. Rafa good luck you can do it he is the king of Clay vamosssssss champ 💪💪💪😘🎾👍👍❤️

  11. completely agree Ziggy. TU Texto es un analico muy fino de la carréra de Rafa, desde vencer en la FINAL DE LA COPA DAVIS en DICIEMBRE 2014 frente a Andy Roddick hasta este ano 2021. Fidel a su mismo y los queridos y aficionados .
    Los démas (fans) no jugan al tennis ….. or no saben mirar y recorder.

    Susana des Sitges.

  12. Nadal plays crap at the moment I dont like his attitude about losing is a fact of life. He is not serving well not returning well not moving well. He has to play better and stop being in denial otherwise no 21 grandslam

    • Disappointment at his loss yes, but why so much disgust? Rafa is not a machine. He is human and prone to dips like anyone else.

      • Lorna,

        Thanks for your common-sense comment. I love Rafa’s attitude, win or lose! I’m sorry he hasn’t done better this clay season – I’d love for him to win everything in sight – but he’s doing his best, as always.

    • Tough love Marijnt! That’s what uncle Tony has given him all his life! Rafa is just being realistic when he said that’s the natural part of life.Tennis is hard on the body especially Rafa‘s knees.He’s just letting us fans know that his body isn’t a teenager anymore.Rafa will give 100% effort until his last match… that is part of his legacy!

      • I couldn’t agree more Ziggy. Rafa is being realistic and honest, as always. Hopefully, he still has a few big wins in him but time marches on as they say. (I am not happy about it but I suspect that this may well be the year when the young rising stars step up at the Slams.
        As for Marijnt’s latest comments, I do wonder whether you are a genuine Rafa fan. It is true that Rafa is not ‘match tight’ and is, therefore, struggling a little to find his best form every time he steps on court but he has always been a warrior on court and never gives less than 100%. That is who he is and has always been. You may think you are just being honest but, in my opinion, your criticism of Rafa is not only harsh but also unwarranted and disrespectful and your use of the word “crap” to describe Rafa’s play is nothing short of rude! If you feel that way about Rafa why don’t you transfer your “support” to one of his rivals? Rafa certainly doesn’t need it.

      • Many of the harsh critics who use the most vile language are gamblers who bet and lose on a player. They don’t take it well.

  13. Rafa good luck this time is yours be prepared for the next tournament you can do it vamosssssss champ we love you for ever 💪💪💪❤️👍😘🎾💪

  14. Rafa is doing ok; in an upside-down world. He has always found Madrid tough and posiibly Rome. Mentally he is having a ‘downer’ we all have these ups & downs in daily life. We will have to wait & see in Paris…again it has never been a sure win. Greetings to all from Melbourne. J’ adore Rafa Nadal!

  15. Rafa has said that he will eventually start losing.The new gens will take over & phase him out and that’s the natural part of life.I’m under a different name but I’ve been here for years & years with all of you Rafa fans. I always want Rafa to win and I always get sad when he loses but I am so much better than I used to be! I’m telling you I would be sad for days after he would lose a close battle.However after his 12 RG it’s like I couldn’t ask for anymore from Rafa. He has broken so many records and given us fans so much that now when he wins it’s just a bonus. There will never be another Rafa… his humbleness, his adorable mannerism…His good looks ( (no one can sneer as cute as Rafa)! His unbelievable sportsmanship… Rafa has never broken one racquet or cursed(Think he cursed one time but I didn’t hear it) Rafa has given me so much entertainment throughout the years that I will truly miss him and most likely won’t watch tennis when his career ends.Thiem Tsitsipas and Zverve are ready to break through and are doing so… but none of them will ever break Rafa’s records. Do they have the aura like Rafa… I myself don’t think so! Rafa is a tennis God! With this all being said… I will be watching every minute that Rafa plays and like I said if he should win his 14th RG… It’s a bonus & I will be right there celebrating with ya all!

    • I completely agree with you, Ziggy!! Very well said! It breaks my heart to see our great Rafa work so hard & lose matches! I feel the same as you. I think the time has come where the new gens are taking over & our great Rafa’s amazing career is coming to an end. It breaks my heart & makes me so sad! I think Rafa, his family & his great team knows this as well. It’s a sad time that we all knew would come one day, but sadly none of us are ready to give up our favorite, best of all time, Rafa! He has brought us so much joy over the years! Let’s hope & pray Rafa can get a few more titles before he retires! It truly breaks my heart knowing that his career is probably coming to an end & is closer than we think. Until then, let’s keep enjoying our dear Rafa, pray that he stays well & he wins a few more titles! VAMOS RAFA!!!

      • Loveourrafa1.. I know exactly how you feel! I was so happy to find this site because no one understood how I felt about Rafa! My family thought I needed therapy because I would be so bummed if he lost or if he would be injured. I remember getting ready to watch RG ( forgot what year) it was early in the morning because I live in California and all of a sudden it switched from Johnny Mac and Jim Curriers to Rafa in the conference room saying that he had to pull out because of a wrist injury…. I felt the blood rush from my face & my heart sink! I was a mess the rest of the day! Finally I had to get a hold of my emotions and cool it a bit with my Rafamania! Like I’ve said I’m so much better at taking Rafa’s knocks … let’s be truthful here it’s been no walk in the park being a diehard Rafa fan! 💜💜💜

    • With you, Ziggy – 100%.

      I believe there’s more there where all Rafa’s success comes from – his spirit, his will to win will see him through – just you wait….he still has a lot to give!

      With all his fans behind him, Rafa won’t let us down!

    • Thank you Ziggy. You are spot on. I agree with everything you said. Rafa has been on the tour for nearky 20 years. He’s won so much, but at the same time he’s got a lot of miles on the clock. Yes, we should celebrate him while we can and appreciate that he has given so much to the sport and is still giving!

    • Beautifully said Ziggy…..

      He’s not done….He’s just not going to win them all…. He has fight left within him… It’s just the level of talent from the next gen has risen significantly, and now Rafa can’t beat them like he used to when he was playing at 75%… Rafa playing at 75% in the past (maybe his serve was off or his forehand was off etc) was still able to get the win… He dug deep and pulled it out against this group…. Now he needs to be at his sharpest. I believe Rafa on clay at 100% can beat Zverev, Tsitsipas , Rublev , all of them… That’s where Rafa’s mental game is at it’s best. When Rafa is firing on all cylinders and is sharp physically on court, it allows him mentally to dissect his opponents game and change things up on court in order to get him the points…the break… whatever he needs to get the win ….

      And that’s what I hope for in Rome…. That Rafa is ready….
      Just ask Stefanos, he learned the hard way.. “Never count Rafa out until the last point is played.”

      VAMOS RAFA!!!!

      • That’s right.Rafa still has the desire to compete and win & I truly believe he will. Don’t forget RG is Rafa’s house! His name is synonymous with Roland Garros! Who knows what it is…the right altitude, the perfect clay… whatever it is, it fits Rafa like a surgeons glove.This year has been unprecedented RG is a week later and who knows what will happen.Rafa hasn’t played his best but he did win Barcelona and maybe he can win Rome! We shall see! I feel very confident that he can win his 14th RG but if he doesn’t I hope one of the next gens get it and not Novak or Roger ( is Roger even playing)?

      • Yes Ziggy… Roger has announced that he will be playing RG… he’s only played Qatar Open all year and was bounced after the 2nd round… next stop for him is the Geneva Open prior to RG… and I thought Rafa hadn’t played enough… RG will be very interesting for sure!!

  16. So tough draw for Rafa. SINNER; RUUD, ZVEREV, ecc……….I hope in much more easier draw on Roland Garross. However court conditions in Rome are so diffrenet than in Madrid, therefore I believe this time Rafa could find an answer for Zverev serve

    • Thank You Marileena for letting me know about Roger. Keep waiting to hear if he’s going to retire but I guess not just yet. Anyway I’ve said my 🙏and I’m all ready for Rafa to win Rome!

      • I like both.😬
        Hopefully Diego and his partner will do better in doubles.

        Good luck to Rafa against Jannik Sinner, tricky opponent.🍀❤️

  17. Madrid final – the battle of the ball crunchers! Rafa has to stand tall, confident and brave against a much improved, big hitting Zverev, if they meet in the QF.

  18. I hope you do well rafa its tuff at the moment for everyone but l have to say from the bottom of my heart you as a person have kept me sane all thought those awful times thank you so so much you always do your best so good luck with the matches vamos rafa

  19. Great! I hope Rafa and Zverev both make it to the quarter finals, then we’ll get a feeling of where our champ’s head is at.

    Good luck Rafa! Get it done, one match at a time!

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