'Rafael Nadal's era of winning may be over', says former No.1

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'Rafael Nadal's era of winning may be over', says former No.1

Following the quarter-final loss to Alexander Zverev in Madrid a week earlier, Rafael Nadal was eager to bounce back and fight for the title in Rome. In the second round, Rafa overcame a disadvantage in both sets against Jannik Sinner and organized the clash against another young Denis Shapovalov.

After nearly three and a half hours, Nadal prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after fending off two match points in the twelfth game of the deciding set to survive and stay on track for the title. Nadal won five more points than Shapovalov, wasting 10 of 14 break opportunities and suffering five nearly cost-the-game breaks after trailing 6-3, 3-0, 40-30!

Denis added more than 40 winners and tried to keep the points on his account, pushing Rafa to the limit and keeping in touch with a great rival in the shorter and medium exchanges. After a terrible start, the Spaniard began to come back in the second part of the second set, falling back again in the decisive one before giving one last push that kept him alive.

Denis survived three break opportunities at 5-5 in the deciding match and created those two match points in the next game, squandering them and losing the tie break 7-3 to power Rafa. After the game, Nadal said that he had to keep a clear head after adding too many errors, staying positive and fighting until the end.

Mats Wilander reflects on Nadal

Weighing in on the news of Rafael Nadal's latest setback, seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander said he was "sad and very worried" about the Spaniard's condition.

According to Wilander, Nadal may never be able to win big tournaments again. "I am very sad and very worried but I do think he [will] keep coming back until he no longer can," Wilander told Eurosport. At the moment the will to play is still there.

The era of winning may be over, but the era of filling stands with fans is still alive. There’s a couple more years of it." According to Wilander, Nadal's body is taking a "beating" with each passing year on the ATP Tour.

"We are getting used to expecting him to not be able to play. He is always trying and is always ready," he said. He is trying but he just can't do it and I guess with every year it seems like he's playing less and less. He is getting older and his body is taking a beating."