ATP Rome: Rafael Nadal eases past Reilly Opelka to set potential Novak Djokovic clash

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ATP Rome: Rafael Nadal eases past Reilly Opelka to set potential Novak Djokovic clash

World no. 3 Rafael Nadal is through to his 12th Rome Open final, seeking the tenth title at one of his favorite events. Facing the giant server Reilly Opelka in the semis, Rafa scored a 6-4, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 32 minutes, beating the first-time Masters 1000 semi-finalist in their first meeting to remain on the title course.

Nadal endured one challenging game and delivered one break in each set to emerge at the top, beating the American in the more extended exchanges to sail into the title clash. Serving at 78% in the opening set, Nadal survived four break chances in the fourth game and grabbed a break in the next one that sent him in front and towards the set after three consecutive holds at love.

Dominating with his forehand, Reilly grabbed two easy holds and created those opportunities at 2-1 that could have sent him ahead. Facing that ultimate challenge, Rafa saved four break points with winners to level the score at 2-2 and avoid an early setback.

Gathering a boost, Nadal secured a break in game five when Opelka sprayed a forehand error, moving in front and holding with a forehand slice winner in game six for a 4-2 advantage.

Rafael Nadal ousted Reilly Opelka in straight sets to reach the Rome Open final.

The American had to dig deep in the seventh game, struggling to win easy points and facing three break chances.

Rafa failed to convert any, and Reilly remained within one break deficit. The Spaniard held at love in game eight with a service winner and closed the opener with another perfect hold at 5-4 after 50 minutes. Opelka held at 15 in the second set's opening game with a service winner before Nadal did the same in game two for 1-1.

The American sent a backhand long in the third game to propel the Spaniard in front, with Rafa holding at love to open a 3-1 gap. Nadal grabbed the sixth game at love for 4-2, and Opelka repeated that in the next game to stay within one break deficit.

Moving closer to the finish line, Rafa fired a service winner in game eight to secure a 5-3 advantage, serving for the win in game ten. From 30-15 down, Rafa claimed three straight points to move over the top and advance into his 12th Rome Open final since 2005.