Nadal Makes Winning Return In Rome

STARNBERG, September 16, 2020

Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal began his Internazionali BNL d’Italia title defence in Rome on Wednesday evening with a comfortable 6-1, 6-1 win over last week’s US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta in his first clay-court match of the season.

In his first tour-level match in 200 days, the No. 2 seed from Spain won 79 per cent of his first-service points, saved the only break point he faced and capitalized on five of his own nine break point chances to secure his 11th straight match win at the Foro Italico in one hour and 13 minutes. Nadal has not lost in Rome since newly crowned US Open champion Dominic Thiem beat him in the quarterfinals three years ago.

“It’s good to be back on the Tour,” said Nadal in his post-match on-court interview. “I miss the crowds. I played a good match, maybe he was a little bit tired after all his matches in New York. It was a perfect start for me. It was solid, [and I hit] good shots on the forehand and backhand. I didn’t expect to play that well.”

Nadal will next take on either Milos Raonic of Canada or Dusan Lajovic from Serbia. “It’s positive news to play another match,” the 34-year-old from Mallorca said. “Rome is one of the most important and historic tournaments in our sport. I always come here with the highest possible motivation. Of course this year the situation is different but I keep trying my best.”

Djokovic advances

Earlier in the day, World No. 1 and four-time champion Novak Djokovic began his clay-court season with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Italian wild card Salvatore Caruso in the second round. The 27-year-old Caruso, who saved a match point to down US qualifier Tennys Sandgren 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) for his first ATP Masters 1000 win of his career on Tuesday, was without a chance against the Serb. Djokovic didn’t face a break point and converted three of his own eight break point chances to prevail after one hour and 24 minutes.

“It was a very good test for me. I’m very pleased with the way I handled myself in important moments,” said Djokovic. “I was in control of the match. Served well when I needed to come up with a big serve and moved well. I constructed the points as the clay courts demand, because it’s obviously completely different surface in terms of building the point tactically. Everything went well. I’m very pleased.”

The 33-year-old Belgrade native will next take on compatriot Filip Krajinovic, who defeated Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-1.