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Nadal On Sinner: 'His Level Is Higher & Higher All The Time'

  • Posted: May 12, 2021

It wasn’t easy for Rafael Nadal on Wednesday evening against Jannik Sinner at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. But the Spaniard gave plenty of credit to the 19-year-old for making the match difficult at the Foro Italico.

“I think Jannik is a very complete player. He’s still improving all the time. You can’t appreciate the improvement in one day,” Nadal said. “To see the improvements of players, you need to follow them [for many] tournaments in a row. You follow him and you see that his level is higher and higher all the time.”

Nadal was down a break on three separate occasions in the match. But the Spaniard avoided a deciding set and advanced to a third-round showdown against Denis Shapovalov.

“[It was] a positive match for me. I think I did a lot of things well. I played a solid match,” Nadal said. “[I am] happy in [that there were] a lot of positive things against a very tough player like Jannik. Very pleased with the victory.”

The teen, who is the youngest player in the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings at World No. 18, held up well in rallies against the legendary lefty. Sinner played aggressively, and he was not overwhelmed by the Spaniard’s power and physicality.

“He has a great backhand and a great forehand, too. I think I tried to… hold [the baseline] well, not going back too far from the court,” Nadal said. “If [you do that], you are dead. I think I held well the position on court.

“I hit some very good forehands, cross-courts too to avoid his great backhand cross, and then he has a great change down the line. I think I did that well.”

Nadal now leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-0 after defeating Sinner in last year’s Roland Garros quarter-finals. They also practised together during this year’s Australian quarantine. The nine-time Rome champion knew he would have his hands full with the Italian.

“It’s not a surprise for me. I know how good he is and the shots he has. He has great shots when he’s running. He has always great comebacks from tough positions,” Nadal said. “I was on court with big respect for him and very focussed every single moment. That’s why I am here with a victory.”

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Preview: Berrettini & Tsitsipas Put To The Test In Rome

  • Posted: May 12, 2021

The tour’s newest first-time ATP Masters 1000 champion and finalist will be put to the test on Thursday at the Foro Italico, as Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters winner Stefanos Tsitsipas faces Mutua Madrid Open runner up Matteo Berrettini in a third-round blockbuster at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Both players will likely be high on confidence and riding the momentum as they compete in the midst of their most successful stretches of the 2021 season. The Greek player recently made his long-awaited Masters 1000 breakthrough in Monte-Carlo (d. Rublev). He went on to reach the final in Barcelona, where he pushed Rafael Nadal to three sets in the most competitive final the Spaniard has ever played there. 

As a result, Tsitsipas has one eye on the Nitto ATP Finals after climbing to first position of the FedEx ATP Race To Turin – and he’s vowed to make it his mission to stay at the top.

“It’s good news that I’m still there, I’m fighting for it every single week,” Tsitsipas said in a pre-tournament interview. “I didn’t have a very good week last week in Madrid, but so far it’s looking good. I’ve been very consistent, which obviously helps to be in that situation. I’m looking forward to being able to perform the same way, or do even better in the future.”

He’ll face a big test against the resurgent Berrettini, who won his first title of the year at the Serbia Open in Belgrade and used that result as a springboard to reach his maiden Masters 1000 final in Madrid. 

The Italian, who was sidelined for a few weeks at the start of the year due to an abdominal injury, might not want to think too far ahead about the Nitto ATP Finals happening in his country at the end of the season. But Berrettini’s results still booked him a spot among the Top 8 positions – another sign of his emphatic return to form.

“I know and I feel that I can play this kind of tennis, this kind of level, I deserve to be here,” Berrettini said after the Madrid final. “When I play and I use my weapons in the right way, all the players are struggling. This is something that makes me confident for the future.

“Obviously everybody looks at the Race, but it’s too soon now… The most important thing is to be healthy. Once I’m healthy, I can reach my level, my best level.”

Tsitsipas will take a 1-0 ATP Head2Head lead into their battle on Grand Stand Arena. The Greek player came back from a set down to win in four at the Australian Open in 2019.

Elsewhere in the Eternal City, top seeds Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are back in action. Last year’s champion Djokovic will take on Spanish qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – his regular practice partner in Marbella – in the first match of the day on Centre Court. Nadal, who is looking for his 10th Rome crown, will face 13th seed Denis Shapovalov later in the afternoon.

Madrid champion Alexander Zverev will look to continue his winning ways in the Italian capital. The sixth seed will face a tricky test against Kei Nishikori, whom he defeated en route to the title last week. Zverev improved to a 3-1 ATP Head2Head over Nishikori with that win, and levelled their matchup on clay to 1-1.

Fourth seed Dominic Thiem and seventh seed Andrey Rublev are also in action, while Aslan Karatsev and Felix Auger-Aliassime also feature on Thursday.


CENTER COURT start 10:00 am

[1] N. Djokovic (SRB) vs [Q] A. Davidovich Fokina (ESP)
WTA – [1] A. Barty (AUS) vs V. Kudermetova (RUS)

Not Before 2:00 pm
[13] D. Shapovalov (CAN) vs [2] R. Nadal (ESP)

Not Before 6.00PM
WTA – [12] G. Muguruza (ESP) vs [5] E. Svitolina (UKR)

GRAND STAND ARENA start 10:00 am
R. Opelka (USA) vs A. Karatsev (RUS)

Not Before 12:00 noon
[9] M. Berrettini (ITA) vs [5] S. Tsitsipas (GRE)
WTA – [9] K. Pliskova (CZE) vs [Q] V. Zvonareva (RUS)
WTA – J. Ostapenko (LAT) vs A. Kerber (GER)

Not Before 7:00 pm
[4] D. Thiem (AUT) vs L. Sonego (ITA)

PIETRANGELI start 10:00 am
WTA – C. Gauff (USA) vs [7] A. Sabalenka (BLR)
WTA – B. Krejcikova (CZE) vs [15] I. Swiatek (POL)
F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN) vs [Q] F. Delbonis (ARG)
[6] A. Zverev (GER) vs K. Nishikori (JPN)
[10] R. Bautista Agut (ESP) vs [7] A. Rublev (RUS)

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
WTA – E. Alexandrova (RUS) vs J. Pegula (USA)
WTA – N. Podoroska (ARG) vs P. Martic (CRO)

COURT 2 start 10:00 am
WTA – [1] S. Hsieh (TPE) / E. Mertens (BEL) vs [ALT] S. Fichman (CAN) / G. Olmos (MEX)
[WC] F. Fognini (ITA) / L. Musetti (ITA) vs [Alt] M. Arevalo (ESA) / M. Middelkoop (NED)
M. Demoliner (BRA) / D. Medvedev (RUS) vs A. Mannarino (FRA) / B. Paire (FRA)
[8] K. Krawietz (GER) / H. Tecau (ROU) vs [Alt] L. Broady (GBR) / A. Murray (GBR)

COURT 4 start 10:00 am
[Alt] A. Behar (URU) / G. Escobar (ECU) vs [7] W. Koolhof (NED) / J. Rojer (NED)
M. Daniell (NZL) / P. Oswald (AUT) vs [2] N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO)
J. Peers (AUS) / M. Venus (NZL) vs [3] I. Dodig (CRO) / F. Polasek (SVK)
[4] M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG) vs L. Kubot (POL) / F. Skugor (CRO)
R. Klaasen (RSA) / B. McLachlan (JPN) vs [5] R. Ram (USA) / J. Salisbury (GBR)

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Nadal Holds Off #NextGenATP Sinner Challenge In Rome

  • Posted: May 12, 2021

For the second week in a row, Rafael Nadal went toe-to-toe with a talented and fast-rising #NextGenATP star – and once again, the World No. 3 managed to hold off the youth surge in style, fighting past 19-year-old Jannik Sinner in an electrifying battle at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Last week in Madrid, Nadal similarly found himself facing off against the future of the sport when he faced Carlos Alcaraz in his opening match. He was tested in the early exchanges, but ultimately eased past the 18-year-old in straight sets.

He had an even bigger battle on his hands on Wednesday against 19-year-old home favourite Sinner, who recently reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Contesting the highly anticipated last match of the evening on Centre Court, Nadal drew from his long experience to wear down Sinner and fight through 7-5, 6-4.

Nadal will face 13th seed Denis Shapovalov in the third round. Shapovalov took down another Italian, wild card Stefano Travaglia, 7-6(2), 6-3 in an hour and 35 minutes to book his fourth meeting with the Spaniard. Nadal owns a 2-1 ATP Head2Head lead over Shapovalov, and won their only previous encounter on clay at this venue in 2018.

Sinner showed no sign of nerves against the 13-time Roland Garros champion in the second round. He had already pushed Nadal to a tie-break in their only previous encounter at last year’s Grand Slam in Paris, where Nadal ultimately prevailed with a 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 win. 

Coming into the match, Nadal had only lost a total of four games in his last four Rome openers. Sinner was determined to flip the script, pushing the Spaniard to the brink and taking an early lead with a break in both sets. But the nine-time champion fought back both times to secure the victory in two hours and 10 minutes.

Nadal vs Coria or Federer: Do You Know Your Rome Classics?


With the victory, Nadal improved to 7-0 against Italian opponents in Rome, and extended his winning record in opening matches to 16-1 at the Foro Italico. 

Sinner set the tone early on with a break in Nadal’s opening service game. The Italian was aggressive from the start, and troubled Nadal with his top spin and ability to change direction of the ball in the rallies. But Nadal replied in kind, levelling the score a game later as both players settled into a returners’ battle. The pair traded breaks twice in the opening set, with Nadal going for the occasional drop shot to break Sinner’s rhythm to much success.

Still on serve but with scoreboard pressure on his side, Nadal dialled up the pressure on Sinner as he served to stay in the set. Nadal created seven break points at the end of the set: three at 5-4 and four more at 6-5. Sinner raised his level on serve when it mattered most to extend his stay in the set, but when Nadal finally got a look at a second serve he battered it with the forehand to seal the opening tilt.

The second seed was in danger in the second set as Sinner again surged to an early break with a 2-1 lead as Nadal’s unforced error count began to climb. But it would prove to be the only break point that Nadal allowed in the set, and the Spaniard recentred himself and reeled off the last four games to close out the battle. 

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Tsitsipas Cruises Past Cilic In Rome

  • Posted: May 12, 2021

Stefanos Tsitsipas passed an opening-round test against Marin Cilic 7-5, 6-2 to reach the fourth round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

“Sometimes I need to adjust my game and Marin is someone I respect a lot,” Tsitsipas said on-court. “I knew he was going to come out here and play his best tennis.”

The Greek improved to 28-7 this season, which tied him back up with Andrey Rublev for most wins after Rublev beat Jan-Lennard Struff earlier on Wednesday. Though Tsitsipas lost in the third round in Madrid, the World No. 5 is filled with confidence after winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. He’s also a former semi-finalist in Rome (2019).

Cilic is 0-11 against Top 10 opponents dating back to his 2018 Australian Open win over Rafael Nadal. He’s now 8-8 on the season.


In a competitive first set, Tsitsipas pounced at 6-5 to break Cilic for the first time when it mattered the most. He had full control of the match from there with Cilic hitting 23 unforced errors to Tsitsipas’ 13.

“He made me move a lot,” Tsitsipas said. “It was quite tricky to adjust to that at the beginning, but towards the very end of the first set I stayed calm and I stayed resilient. I had to play deep on the returns and find solutions from the baseline rallies. Obviously, that worked well for me from 6-5.”

Tsitsipas next faces Matteo Berrettini, who beat John Millman 6-4, 6-2. The Italian will have the home-court advantage when fans return on Thursday. Tsitsipas feels right at home in Rome though, and enjoyed the scenery Pietrangeli stadium had to offer. 

“[Pietrangeli] itself is very beautiful; it’s one of the best courts on tour,” Tsitsipas said. “I feel like the atmosphere here is great. We’re surrounded by trees in the city and it’s very, very quiet which is important for tennis. And honestly, I can’t wait for the fans to come and fill in the stadium.”

Berrettini continued his great serving form from his final run in Madrid. He faced zero break points, giving him freedom to go for more on return games. He broke the Aussie to start the second set and ran away with the match quickly from there.

Since his debut in 2017, the World No. 9 has improved with each appearance in Rome, reaching the second round in 2018, the third round in 2019, and the quarter-finals in 2020. He will have a tough challenge next in Tsitsipas, who beat him in their only meeting at the 2019 Australian Open.

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Karatsev Takes Out Medvedev In Rome

  • Posted: May 12, 2021

Aslan Karatsev took out third seed Daniil Medvedev at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Wednesday 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 18 minutes. He moves into the third round where Reilly Opelka awaits.

Karatsev and Medvedev were facing off for the first time, but the Russians had familiarity with each other’s games having won the ATP Cup together this year. At the time, Karatsev was delegated to doubles behind singles stars Medvedev and Andrey Rublev. 


Although Medvedev is at a career-high World No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Karatsev is now 21-6 this season with an ATP 500 title in Dubai. Medvedev has yet to find his rhythm on clay with an early exit in Madrid and now Rome.

Until Wednesday, Medvedev had a flawless 6-0 record versus fellow Russians dating back to the start of 2019. It marks Karatsev’s second Top 5 win in the past month after upsetting World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Belgrade.

With Medvedev coming out slow, Karatsev made the first move with a break for 3-2 followed by a second break to lengthen his lead to 5-2. The World No. 27 served it out comfortably, winning 90 per cent of his first-serve points across the match and needing to save just one break point.

Karatsev used his forehand and aggressive court positioning to put pressure on Medvedev, who was passive from start to finish. Karatsev maintained his focus in the second set and a series of slick winners, including a flick-of-the-wrist forehand passing shot and a sharp volley, helped him get a break for 4-3. It was smooth sailing from there to serve it out. 

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The 'Good Problem' Zverev Has In Rome

  • Posted: May 12, 2021

Alexander Zverev arrives in Rome having to make a quick adjustment from the altittude in Madrid, where on Sunday he lifted his fourth ATP Masters 1000 trophy. But the German doesn’t mind doing so as he gets set for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, which he won in 2017.

“It’s a good problem to have. If you are coming so late from Madrid, it means you’ve done well,” Zverev said. “I would like to have that problem always at tournaments.”

Zverev is fresh off an impressive performance at the Caja Magica, where he beat Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Matteo Berrettini en route to the crown. Before Madrid, he did not win more than one match at each of his previous three tournaments.

“It was a week that I didn’t expect to be honest,” Zverev admitted. “Obviously I’m extremely happy with winning my fourth Masters [1000 event], my second in Madrid. It was a week that I think I’ll remember.”

Now the trick will be to keep his level high in Rome, where he owns an 11-3 record. In addition to his championship run in 2017, Zverev made the final in 2018, when only Nadal was able to stop him.

“Usually when I find my form, I don’t have a problem maintaining it. If you look at the past history a little bit, when I won Madrid in 2018, I made finals here,” Zverev said. “Doesn’t mean I’m going to make finals here again. I hope I can continue this.

“This is obviously a completely different event, completely different conditions. I need some getting used to time. Yeah, I hope I continue playing the same way. We’ll see how that goes then.”

The sixth seed will begin his tournament against Bolivian qualifier Hugo Dellien, whom he beat in the Geneva quarter-finals two years ago in three sets. The winner will play Kei Nishikori, whom Zverev defeated 6-3, 6-2 in the second round in Madrid last week.

“I’m looking forward to this week,” Zverev said. “I’m looking forward to being able to back my form up. I hope I can do that.”

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