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Nadal survives Zverev comeback to win eighth Italian Open

  • Posted: May 20, 2018

Rafael Nadal survived a stunning fightback from Alexander Zverev to win a record eighth Italian Open.

Nadal cruised to the first set before defending champion Zverev won nine of the next 11 games to take the second set 6-1 and lead 3-1 in the decider.

But the Spaniard turned the match around following a lengthy rain delay and closed out a 6-1 1-6 6-3 victory.

The win will see Nadal regain the world number one ranking before the French Open which starts next Sunday.

Roger Federer had regained top spot in the rankings when Nadal lost to Dominic Thiem at the Madrid Masters last week, his only defeat on clay this season.

Nadal has now won three clay-court titles from four tournaments in the lead-up to his bid for an 11th Roland Garros title in Paris.

  • Svitolina beats Halep in Rome final
  • Milos Raonic pulls out of French Open with injury

Nadal cruised to the first set in just 32 minutes and had looked on course for a routine victory against in-form Zverev, who had won 14 matches in a row and 30 matches in total this season – more than any other player.

But the 31-year-old made a number of uncharacteristic errors in the second set while world number three Zverev upped his game to level at 1-1.

The German, 21, broke Nadal’s serve in the opening game of the deciding set and maintained that break to lead 3-1 going into an 11-minute rain delay.

Nadal won the game after the players returned only for play to be halted by a second, longer rain delay, after which he won four games in a row to clinch the match.

The win is Nadal’s 78th ATP Tour title and takes him clear of John McEnroe into fourth place in the list of most men’s titles won in the Open era.

It also extends Nadal’s impressive record in Rome where he has won the title more than any other player with Serbia’s Novak Djokovic second on four titles.

Most titles in the Open era
Jimmy Connors 109
Roger Federer 97
Ivan Lendl 94
Rafael Nadal 78
John McEnroe 77


Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent

Zverev was just three games away from a first win over Nadal – and a hugely significant one, on clay, so close to the French Open – when rain dragged the players off court.

Nadal barely put a foot wrong on the resumption, winning five games in a row to make sure he will be the world number one as well as the top seed at Roland Garros.

But make no mistake, Nadal was seriously rattled by the way Zverev played – the German won nine games out of 11 from the start of the second set.

Nadal adopted his customary deep returning position, and at times was dominated by the German’s big serve and crisp, flat, ball striking.

They will be the top two seeds at Roland Garros, and may well meet in the final in Paris.

First, though, Zverev must survive the first four rounds, something he is yet to achieve at any Grand Slam.

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French Open: Milos Raonic pulls out of Roland Garros with injury

  • Posted: May 20, 2018

World number 22 Milos Raonic has pulled out of next week’s French Open with injury.

Raonic, 27, has struggled with a knee issue in recent weeks and withdrew from the Monte Carlo Masters last month.

The Canadian reached the 2016 Wimbledon final, losing to Andy Murray, while his best result in Paris came in 2014 when he reached the quarter-finals.

“It is with a heavy heart that I am withdrawing from Roland Garros,” Raonic said on Twitter.

  • Nadal survives Zverev comeback to win eighth Italian Open
  • Svitolina beats Halep in Rome final

“I know I need to continue working hard to put myself in the best position when I step out on the court.

“Thank you all for your support and see you soon on the grass.”

The French Open, the second Grand Slam of the year, starts in Paris on 27 May.

Raonic is due to play at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s, which starts on 18 June, while Wimbledon begins on 2 July.

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Rafa Reigns In Rome, Returns To No. 1

  • Posted: May 20, 2018

Rafa Reigns In Rome, Returns To No. 1

Rafael Nadal outlasts Alexander Zverev in three gripping sets at the Foro Italico

That did not take long. One week after relinquishing the top spot in the ATP Rankings, Rafael Nadal will make his return to No. 1.

Nadal is set to embark on his 174th week at the pinnacle of men’s tennis after ousting Alexander Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, in a pulsating final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Sunday. He capped another dominant week on the dirt, capturing his third ATP World Tour title in less than a month.

After five years, the Spaniard is back in the winners’ circle in Rome. He notched an unprecedented eighth crown at the iconic Foro Italico, adding to victories in 2005-07, 2009-10 and 2012-13. Nadal was at his ruthless best once again and following a quarter-final defeat to Dominic Thiem last week in Madrid, he was even more determined to lift another trophy.

Nadal also added a slice of history with his victory in the Eternal City. The 31-year-old now stands alone in fourth place on the Open Era titles list, adding a 78th piece of silverware to pass John McEnroe. Only Jimmy Connors (109), Roger Federer (97) and Ivan Lendl (94) remain ahead of him.

You May Also Like: How Nadal Triumphed In Rome

Open Era Title Leaders

Player Open Era Titles
(1) Jimmy Connors 109
(2) Roger Federer 97
(3) Ivan Lendl 94
(4) Rafael Nadal 78
(5) John McEnroe 77

Zverev sprinted out of the gates on an overcast late afternoon in the Italian capital, snatching an immediate break in the first game. The German looked to continue to play aggressive, first-strike tennis, which is exactly what saw him win 13 straight matches and reach consecutive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals.

The Foro Italico is Nadal’s playground and he would strike back with considerable aplomb. The Spaniard broke right back to love with a sublime drop shot, and he would secure another break with a cross-court forehand winner two games later. Zverev had no answer for Nadal’s penetrating groundstrokes and devastating return game.

But Zverev would respond in kind to open the second set, suddenly raising his level and out of nowhere the 21-year-old reeled off five straight games. If you turned away for a minute, you missed it. Matching Nadal’s pace and depth off the ground, the World No. 3 fired back to force a decider. It ended Nadal’s streak of 17 consecutive sets won in clay-court finals.

And as Zverev carried the momentum into the third set with another break, the drama built to a crescendo as the skies closed and rain began to fall on Centrale. A pair of delays suspended play for a combined 55 minutes, with Zverev leading 3-2. But the rain would dampen the German’s momentum, and Nadal snatched the initiative upon resumption. Zverev would not win another game. The World No. 1 drew level and grabbed another break for 5-3, before closing out his eighth Rome title with a brilliant drop volley winner.

Nadal secured the title after two hours and nine minutes, firing 19 total winners, including nine off his backhand wing. Zverev, meanwhile, launched 21 winners, but made 28 unforced errors. The Spaniard dominated the shorter rallies, claiming the majority under five shots by a count of 33-25.

Victory in Rome was well deserved for the now 32-time Masters 1000 champion. Earlier in the week, Nadal got his revenge over Denis Shapovalov after falling to the surging teen in Montreal last year, and he would overcome home favourite Fabio Fognini from a set down. On Saturday, longtime rival Novak Djokovic, who defeated Nadal in his two final losses in Rome, was ousted in straight sets by the Spaniard.

Despite the loss, Zverev will ascend to the top of the ATP Race To London standings on Monday. Following victories in Munich and Madrid, he saw his win streak snapped at 13 straight in his bid to retain the Rome title.

Tour-Level Match Wins Leaders In 2018

Player Match Wins
(1) Alexander Zverev 30
(2) Dominic Thiem 25
(T-3) Rafael Nadal 23
(T-3) Juan Martin del Potro 23

Zverev, who owns a tour-leading 30 match wins this year, will next turn his attention to Roland Garros, where he hopes to dethrone Nadal and stop the Spaniard from claiming an ‘Undécima’ at the clay-court Grand Slam. And with only 10 points to defend in Paris, his quest continues to become the first player outside the Big Four to crack the Top 2 of the ATP Rankings in 13 years.

Did You Know?
Nadal extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head record to a perfect 5-0 against Zverev, marking the second time he has prevailed this year. Last month he earned a straight-set win in Davis Cup action.

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Svitolina overwhelms Halep to win Italian Open

  • Posted: May 20, 2018

Elina Svitolina thrashed world number one Simona Halep 6-0 6-4 to win a second consecutive Italian Open.

In a rematch of last year’s final, the Ukrainian dominated from the start in Rome and took the first set without losing a game in just 19 minutes.

Romanian Halep, 26, received some stern words from coach Darren Cahill at 5-0 down and improved in the second set.

But 23-year-old world number four Svitolina maintained the upper hand as she powered to a comfortable win.

“It’s amazing that I could come and defend my title here. It’s really something very special for me,” said Svitolina.

She will now go into the French Open at Roland Garros, which starts on 27 May, in confident mood.

“I will try to take one match at a time, it’s very important in a Grand Slam,” she added.

“It’s very tricky so we’ll see how it goes, but definitely I’m going to enjoy (going to) Roland Garros on a high note.”

Halep, who also had a medical time out in the second set, was a set and 5-1 down to Svitolina at last year’s French Open before winning – but there was no comeback this time around.

There were signs of her quality when she held serve in the ninth game of the second set – only for Svitolina to keep her nerve and successfully close out the match.

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Rafa, Sascha Set For Battle Royale In Rome

  • Posted: May 20, 2018

Rafa, Sascha Set For Battle Royale In Rome previews Sunday’s championship in Rome

The fireworks will be flying on Sunday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, as the two hottest players on the ATP World Tour are set for a championship clash in Rome. 

Top seed and seven-time champion Rafael Nadal will square off against second seed and reigning titlist Alexander Zverev in a highly-anticipated showdown on the clay of the Foro Italico. It is only fitting that the gladiators renew their budding rivalry in Rome, with plenty on the line for both players.

One year after making his debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals, Zverev is well on his way to return to The O2. The German is assured of securing the top spot in the ATP Race To London on Monday with his successful week in Rome. He has dominated the ATP World Tour in recent months, posting a 21-2 record on the circuit since mid-March, which has vaulted the 21-year-old to the Race lead as we enter Roland Garros.

Zverev still has plenty at stake against Nadal, however, as he also seeks to continue to close the gap on the Top 2 of the ATP Rankings. And with only 10 points to defend at the second Grand Slam of the year, a win on Sunday would be another important step in his quest to become the first player outside the Big Four to crack the Top 2 in 13 years.

View FedEx ATP Head2Head for the following match from the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia & vote for who you think will win! 
Nadal vs Zverev 


“There’s not much you need to say about him,” Zverev, who now owns a tour-leading 30 match wins this year, said about Nadal. “I’m definitely not the favourite in this matchup, but I’ll be ready for it and I’ll do everything I can to recover. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”

ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Title Leaders

Player Masters 1000 Titles Rome Titles
(1) Rafael Nadal 31 7
(2) Novak Djokovic 30 4
(3) Roger Federer 27 0
(4) Andre Agassi 17 1
(5) Andy Murray 14 1

As if Nadal needs any additional motivation to secure an unprecedented 32nd Masters 1000 crown and eighth in the Eternal City, the Spaniard will be eyeing a return to World No. 1 in the ATP Rankings with a win on Sunday. After relinquishing the No. 1 mantle following a quarter-final defeat to Dominic Thiem at the Mutua Madrid Open, Nadal is poised to reclaim his throne for a 174th week.

“If I am back to No. 1, it’s great,” said Nadal on Saturday. “Better than to be No. 2, it’s true. My motivation is to win a title and I am playing for this tomorrow.”

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You May Also Like: Nadal Survives Battle Against Djokovic

Zverev enters Sunday’s showdown in the midst of a 13-match unbeaten run, having dropped just two sets in that span. But Nadal will take great confidence from a streak of his own. The Manacor native owns a perfect 4-0 mark in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including a recent 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory in Davis Cup action last month. He also claimed wins in Indian Wells in 2016 and last year at both the Australian Open at Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

Both players will be battle tested as they enter Centrale once again, with Nadal overcoming Novak Djokovic on Saturday, in what was the 51st meeting between the two titans, and Zverev outlasting Marin Cilic under the lights. The top-seeded Spaniard is also coming off a comeback victory over Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals, having stormed back from a set down to defeat the home favourite. 

And if Nadal is to add a 78th piece of silverware to his burgeoning trophy case, he will claim yet another slice of history. Victory over Zverev would see him climb past John McEnroe for solo fourth place on the Open Era titles list. Only Jimmy Connors (109), Roger Federer (97) and Ivan Lendl (94) remain ahead of the 31-year-old.

Tour-Level Match Wins Leaders In 2018

Player Match Wins
(1) Alexander Zverev 30
(2) Dominic Thiem 25
(3) Juan Martin del Potro 23
(4) Rafael Nadal 22

On the other side of the net, victory for Zverev would put the 21-year-old in an exclusive club as just the third player to complete the Madrid-Rome double. Only Nadal (2010 & ’13) and Djokovic (2011) have done so since the current Masters 1000 format was established in 2009. Zverev is also bidding to become the first player outside of the Big Four to successfully defend a Masters 1000 crown since Juan Carlos Ferrero achieved the feat in Monte-Carlo in 2002-03. 

Read More: Zverev Extends Streak, Reaches Rome Final

“We’ve had some very tough matches,” Zverev added, referring to his previous meetings with Nadal. “In Indian Wells, I lost with a match point and in Australia we went five sets. Obviously we had some great battles and I’ve always enjoyed playing him. He’s the greatest of all time on clay, but hopefully I can prepare the best I can for tomorrow.”

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