Rafael Nadal and Jannik Sinner met for the second time in Rome last year. It was the second-round clash between the top-20 stars, and Nadal prevailed 7-5, 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes for a winning start. The Spaniard passed a formidable obstacle and made a winning return after the Madrid Open quarter-final loss to Alexander Zverev.
Jannik challenged Rafa for almost three hours at Roland Garros 2020, and he did the same at home at Foro Italico the following spring. The youngster was a break in front three times, and he still ended on the losing side after falling in the closing stages of both sets.
Rafa played aggressive tennis to match the rival's powerful groundstrokes and had the upper hand in the crucial moments to seal the deal in straight sets. Jannik led twice in the opener before Rafa bounced back to take it 7-5 and gain a massive boost.
In set number two, a nine-time champion came from 4-2 down to rattle off the last four games and cross the finish line first. Rafa was pleased with how he performed, doing many things right on the court against a formidable opponent.
Rafael Nadal spoke about his Rome Open victory over Jannik Sinner.
"It was a positive match for me; I did many things well and produced a solid level. Jannik is an adamant opponent, and I'm happy with the outcome.
I'm delighted with the victory. I think Jannik is a complete player, and he is still improving all the time. You can not recognize the improvement in one day. To see the players' progress, do you need to follow their tournaments regularly? You follow Jannik, and you will see that his level is getting higher and higher.
He has a great backhand and forehand, and I had to step in and hold the position without stepping back. I hit some good crosscourt forehands to avoid his great backhand cross or down the line strokes. I think I did well. His level is not surprising to me; I know how mighty his strokes are.
I stepped onto the court respecting Jannik, and I was focused on every point. That helped me to earn the win. We played during the night session, and the conditions were slow. Rome is different from Madrid; you can not make a significant impact with your serve here in Rome, especially at night. Jannik lost serve five times, but he still could have won the match in slow conditions," Rafael Nadal said.