PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final

Top seed Rafael Nadal has reached the final of the Rome Masters courtesy of a 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over Novak Djokovic this afternoon.

In their 51st meeting but first in more than a year, Rafa’s court coverage eventually proved too much to handle for Djokovic.

After the match, Rafa said:

It was a tough match. Playing against him is always a challenge.

I played a couple of bad shots serving for the first set. Against him you always have to play at the limit of your game.

I needed to play aggressive with my forehand. When I didn’t do that is when I suffered.

This victory is a good confidence for me.

The King of Clay will now face either Alexander Zverev or Marin Cilic in Sunday’s final.

Sources: AP, BBC

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PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal beats Fabio Fognini in Rome

 (AP) — Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal overcame a poor first set and a partisan crowd to beat Fabio Fognini 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 and reach the Italian Open semifinals on Friday.

The crowd at the Foro Italico was decidedly behind Fognini, Italy’s top player, and Rafa was under pressure when Fognini won five straight games to cancel out a 4-1 deficit and win the opening set.

But Fognini couldn’t keep up with Rafa’s consistency and heavy topspin on the red clay court and eventually was physically worn down.

Fognini had tape applied under his left knee while trailing 3-2 in the third set due to an apparent physical problem.

For a spot in the final, Rafa will play four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori.

Source: AP

PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal beats Denis Shapovalov to reach Italian Open quarterfinals

(AFP) – Rafael Nadal brushed aside the challenge of Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov with a 6-4, 6-1 victory to reach the Italian Open quarter-finals on Thursday.

Our champ will face Italian Fabio Fognini in the last eight as he looks to retake the world number one ranking from Roger Federer by winning an eighth Rome title this week.

Rafa has already won his 11th titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona during the current clay-court season, but has lost in the quarter-finals in each of the last three years in Italy.

He was far too strong for Shapovalov, taking the opening set with a break in the seventh game before racing through the second to gain a measure of revenge for his shock defeat by the 19-year-old in Montreal last year.

Source: AFP

PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal marches into third round of Italian Open in Rome

(AFP) – Rafael Nadal powered his way into the third round of the Italian Open on Wednesday with a straight sets win over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

The Spaniard won through 6-1, 6-0 in an hour as he targets an eighth title at the Foro Italico and first since 2013.

After the match, Rafa said:

It was a positive match, of course. It was important, after a loss in Madrid, to come back strong. And that’s what I did today. I went on court with the right intensity.

I don’t know how many mistakes I made, but not many. I also had control, more or less, of a high percentage of the points. That was the way that I want to play.

Rafa lost his first match on clay in over a year last week in the Madrid quarter-finals to Austrian Dominic Thiem and as a result lost his world number one ranking to Roger Federer.

Rafa  took the first set in 34 minutes coasting to victory in just one hour. He next takes on either Denis Shapovalov or Robin Haase.

Source: AFP

Rafa hits the tennis court with kids in Rome

Rafael Nadal practises ahead of his first match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and spends time hitting balls with local children.

Rafa Roundup: Here’s why fans don’t have to worry about Rafa

Julian Finney/Getty Images

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“I won here seven times and for me it’s very special always to play here in these tournaments. I can win Roland Garros losing here, and I can win Roland Garros winning here. I don’t think what’s going to happen here is going to have a big impact on what can happen in two weeks, but there’s one thing that is 100 per cent sure: I’m not thinking about Roland Garros when I’m here, I’m thinking only about Rome.”

Last year, Rafa lost to Thiem in Rome, before beating him in straight sets in the semis at the French Open. Can we expect a similar pattern in 2018, or does Thiem now pose a real threat to what had appeared to be another romp at Roland Garros for Rafa? Will a win in Madrid help make Thiem a winner in Paris?

Nadal’s 75-2 record at Roland Garros should be enough to offer an early answer to that question: Probably not.

“I don’t think so, not for us at least,” Moya said when asked if this was a setback ahead of Nadal’s title defence in Paris.

“Maybe for the opponents they are going to realise that they can have a chance to beat him, we are aware of that. But we knew it was going to be very difficult to win all the tournaments on clay.

“We knew this could happen, it happened last year in Rome and then he played amazing tennis in the French Open. So I don’t think this is going to be a step back on his preparation for Paris.”

Even at his best in those two years, he looked well behind Djokovic, who beat Nadal seven times in a row without losing a set, including three on clay.

But instead of crumbling, Nadal has climbed back and become more dominant on clay than ever before. He’s done it with more powerful strokes, a stronger serve and more volleys — and, most important, the confidence that seemed to escape him several years ago.

PHOTOS: Pre-tournament presser in Rome

Rafael Nadal comments on loss to Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal talks to the press following his quarter-final defeat to Dominic Thiem in Madrid:

This is not a drama. I won 50 consecutive sets on this surface. Now I lost. I’m not gonna do a lot of things different because of this.

Of course, I’m upset. I tried to come back. I tried to do it a couple of times, but I wasn’t good enough today. He was better than me today, that’s the end of the story. Some days you don’t play as well as you’d like to play. Also, when that happens, it’s because your opponent is doing really well. I just want to congratulate him, that’s all.

I think that today I didn’t read the ball well enough to be able to handle the situation, to put him into places where he didn’t feel comfortable. I was not good enough with my forehand or my backhand to open up to his forehand.

Three weeks ago I beat him 6-0, 6-2. I don’t know if that’s a tough player or not. I don’t think it’s that way. I think it’s just been a match that he was better than me, same as a few weeks ago I was better than him.

This week, of course, he has been the toughest opponent. There is no discussion about that. This is the reality. If he beats me three times in a row, maybe we can say he reads my game and can beat me. Today he was better than me, and that’s all.

Rafa on losing No. 1 ranking to Roger Federer:

I think from January till Monte-Carlo I played zero tournaments. These are three months or more given away. This is a lot of months given away to the other players.

Having said this, I think I placed myself in a good position more or less. I am No. 3 in the race of the year, which is the most important thing. I still have two good weeks on clay, and then I’ll keep on moving forward. This is the reality.

Talking about No. 1, of course I prefer to be No. 1 than 2, and No. 3 than 5. I have said this a million times. I lost the No. 1 before, but what makes me happy is I feel fit, can compete with possibilities every single week. This is my final goal: to be happy. That’s what I’m working on.

Sources: ATP World Tour, Metro