World no. 2 and the nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal is through to the quarter-final for the 15th time in the last 16 years at Foro Italico. After another reliable performance, the Spaniard took down Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-3 in an hour and 30 minutes, continuing where he left against Pablo Carreno Busta and advancing into the 93rd Masters 1000 quarter-final.
Rafa lost 15 points in eight service games, suffering two breaks and erasing that deficit with a commanding performance on the return that saw him scoring six breaks from 14 opportunities. Nadal got broken in the opener's third game, shifting into a higher gear to rattle off four straight games and close the set with three consecutive breaks on his tally.
The Spaniard landed a forehand crosscourt winner in the first game for a hold at 15, defending his backhand nicely in the second game to grab an early break following a forehand mistake from the Serb. Surprisingly, Rafa lost the ground a bit in game three, spraying a forehand error to suffer a break at love and bring Dusan back into contention, gaining an extra motive to push even harder in the rest of the set.
The fourth game was the most extended one of the match, with Nadal converting the sixth break chance after an incredible forehand return winner that moved him 3-1 in front. A service winner delivered the fifth game for world no.
2, forcing an error from Lajovic to earn another break and move closer to the finish line. Serving for the set, Rafa fired a service winner to wrap it up 6-1 in 41 minutes, feeling eager to chase a similar outcome in set number two.
Lajovic kicked off the second set with a double fault that handed a break to Nadal, with the Spaniard landing a volley winner in game two to confirm the advantage. Fading from the court in those moments, Dusan sent a backhand long in the third game to find himself 3-0 down, having a mountain to climb in front of him if he wanted a more favorable result.
Rafael Nadal will compete in the 15th quarter-final in Rome since 2005.
Rafa brought the fourth game home with a service winner, reaching deuce on the return but not pushing further and creating break chances, allowing Lajovic to clinch the set's first game.
The Serb made the encounter more interesting when he pulled one break back in game six after forcing an error from Rafa, holding at 15 when Nadal netted an easy forehand to remain in touch. Keeping his composure, Nadal closed the eighth game with a service winner, opening a 5-3 gap and forcing Lajovic to serve for staying in the encounter.
The Serb couldn't survive that ninth game, spraying a backhand mistake for a break at love, propelling Nadal into the last eight, where he plays against Diego Schwartzman.