Rafael Nadal battles past Zizou Bergs, making winning start in Rome

Rafael Nadal made a winning start at one of his favorite Masters 1000 event

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal battles past Zizou Bergs, making winning start in Rome
© Mike Hewitt / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Ten-time Rome Masters champion Rafael Nadal made a winning start at Foro Italico. Rafa met the Belgian Zizou Bergs for the first time, earning a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win in two hours and 53 minutes and notching his 70th victory in the Italian capital.

Nadal led 3-1 in the opener before dropping five of the next six games, having to work hard to emerge at the top. The veteran served well in sets two and three, keeping his games safe and moving over the top with a break of serve in each.

Unlike in Madrid, Nadal's initial shot worked well, leading him toward 19 unreturned serves. However, his groundstrokes were at a lower level, spraying 32 mistakes but welcoming 36 from the Belgian.

Rafael Nadal & Zizou Bergs, Rome 2024© Mike Hewitt / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafa trailed in the mid-range rallies, erasing the deficit in the shortest and most advanced ones and winning three points more than Zizou.

The Spaniard saved seven out of nine break points and grabbed three return games from seven chances, doing enough to pass the first obstacle. Bergs sprayed an error in the fourth game of the encounter, losing serve and sending Nadal 3-1 in front.

The Belgian stayed composed and pulled the break back in game five after a return winner, returning to the positive side and gaining a boost. They served well in games seven and eight before Zizou stepped in on the return at 4-4, creating three break chances and seizing the second after Rafa's double fault.

Bergs wrapped up the opener with a hold at love at 5-4, sealing it with an attractive winner at the net and hoping for more in the rest of the duel. The Belgian claimed ten points on the return in the second set and created two break points.

Rafael Nadal, Rome 2024© Dan Istitene / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal came from a set down to beat Zizou Bergs in Rome.

He failed to convert them and got broken in the early stages, propelling the Spaniard in front.

Rafa held at love in games one and three and clinched a break in between, forging a 3-0 advantage. Nadal denied a break point in the fifth game and held after deuce two games later for 5-2. The veteran served for the set at 5-3 and offered his rival a break chance.

Rafa saved it with a service winner and converted a set point with a forehand winner, clinching the set 6-3 and introducing a decider after an hour and 49 minutes. The veteran fired a forehand winner in the third game of the final set, delivering a crucial break and gaining confidence.

Rafael Nadal, Rome 2024© Mike Hewitt / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Bergs saved another break chance in the fifth game and created three break points in the next one, eager to erase the deficit. The ten-time champion denied them with fine hitting and held after the rival's loose backhand for a 4-2 advantage.

Nadal trailed 30-0 on serve in the eighth game before winning four points, taking advantage of Bergs' massive forehand error and moving 5-3 ahead. The Spaniard served for the win at 5-4 and held at 15, celebrating his first win in Rome in two years and moving into the second round.

Rafael Nadal Zizou Bergs