A ten-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal could not fight for the title defense at Foro Italico this week. The Spaniard fell in the third round to Denis Shapovalov following a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 loss in two hours and 37 minutes. Much worse than the actual loss is that Rafa feels the pain in his foot again, barely finishing the match and gathering dark clouds over his Roland Garros chances.
It was Nadal's worst result in Rome in 2008, and he left two Masters 1000 events on clay with modest three victories. Rafa left the pain in the middle of the second set, and he gave his best to seal the deal in straight sets.
Shapovalov fought well and delivered a late break to steal the set and become a massive favorite. The Canadian grabbed three breaks in the decider to seal the deal and advance into the quarter-final. Denis fired 13 aces and got broken four times, mainly in the opening set.
Rafa experienced five breaks in sets two and three to hit the exit door and get himself in a tough position ahead of Roland Garros. Shapovalov fired 30 service winners and tried to impose his strokes in the rallies. It did not work in the opener, but he gained a boost at the beginning of the second set after surviving a challenging service game.
He broke Nadal in the second game and saved a break chance in the fifth for 4-1.
Rafael Nadal feels pain in his foot again ahead of Roland Garros.
Nadal made one last push and broke at love in game seven to reduce the deficit and improve his chances.
In the eighth game, the Spaniard denied break points to lock the result at 4-4. He fended off a match point in game ten before experiencing a break at 5-6 to hand the set to his rival and seal his fate in this match. They exchanged breaks at the beginning of the final set, and it was all about Shapovalov after that.
He claimed four straight games from 2-2 to emerge at the top and dethrone a ten-time winner. "I have my foot pain back, and it hurts a lot. I'm not injured; I'm a player living with an injury; it's nothing new.
It's something that is constantly there. To be honest, my day-by-day process is difficult, and it's tough for me to accept the situation sometimes. My issues started in the middle of the second set, and I could not play.
Still, I do not want to take anything away from Denis; well done to him. I do not know what can happen in the following days. I take many painkillers because otherwise, I would not be able to practice or compete. This pain knocks the happiness out of you," Rafael Nadal said.