Rafael Nadal arrives in Rome and seeks title defense

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Rafael Nadal arrives in Rome and seeks title defense

A ten-time Rome Masters champion Rafael Nadal arrived in the Italian capital on Saturday following an early Madrid Masters loss. Rafa will practice in Rome with Andrey Rublev on Sunday, working on his game and hoping to defend the title claimed a year ago over Novak Djokovic.

The most successful player at Foro Italico will seek the 11th title and the milestone 70th victory next week, hoping to chase the fourth title of the season. Nadal made a perfect start to the season, conquering Melbourne, the Australian Open and Acapulco before losing the Indian Wells final to Taylor Fritz.

The Spaniard injured his rib during the run in the desert and was forced to skip six weeks, including tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Rafa returned to action in Madrid this week and hit the exit door in the quarter-final.

Nadal defeated Miomir Kecmanovic and David Goffin en route to the last four, where he faced the upcoming star, Carlos Alcaraz.

Rafael Nadal will seek the 11th Rome Masters title next week.

Alcaraz toppled the king of clay 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in two hours and 28 minutes to end Nadal's campaign.

Carlos saved six out of nine break points and grabbed four return games from five opportunities to control the scoreboard against a four-time Caja Magica winner. The youngster overpowered the veteran with 37 winners and 31 unforced errors, dictating the pace and showing his rich potential.

Nadal got broken three times in the opening set and bounced back in the second after Alcaraz's ankle injury. The youngster returned at his best in the final set and overpowered the rival. Carlos barely lost a point behind the initial shot and grabbed a single break at 2-1 to emerge at the top and end Nadal's campaign.

Rafa will seek a better result in Rome, where he has won ten titles since 2005. The Spaniard will use the season's fifth Masters 1000 event as the final preparation for Roland Garros. A year ago, Nadal overpowered Novak Djokovic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in the final at Foro Italico to celebrate the milestone title.

The encounter lasted two hours and 49 minutes, and Rafa had to dig deep to overpower his biggest rival. Novak took charge in the second set to gain a boost ahead of the decider, but it was not enough to carry him through. The Spaniard survived a challenging fifth game and grabbed the crucial break in the next one to build the advantage. Rafa served well in the remaining games to emerge at the top and lift the tenth Rome crown.