Rafael Nadal secures ultimate Masters 1000 record in Rome

Rafael Nadal notched his 70th victory at the Rome Masters before bowing out

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal secures ultimate Masters 1000 record in Rome
© Mike Hewitt / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal will likely end his glorious Rome Masters journey with a 70-9 score, lifting ten trophies at Foro Italico and writing history. The veteran fell in the second round at one of his favorite events this week, winning one match before losing to Hubert Hurkacz.

Rafa notched his 70th Rome Masters win over Zizou Bergs. Thus, he extended his record and became the only player with 70 triumphs at two Masters 1000 events, previously achieving that in Monte Carlo. Nadal debuted in Rome in 2005 and claimed back-to-back titles in epic finals versus Guillermo Coria and Roger Federer.

Rafa had missed only one Rome final by 2014 before losing ground a bit at Foro Italico. The king of clay bounced back and lifted three titles between 2018 and 2021, becoming a proud owner of ten Rome Masters trophies. Rafa also has 70 wins in Rome, standing ahead of his closest rival, Novak Djokovic, who failed to catch him following an early loss.

Rafael Nadal, Rome Masters 2024© Mike Hewitt / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The Spaniard kicked off his 19th Rome Masters campaign with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Zizou Bergs in two hours and 53 minutes.

Nadal wasted an early advantage in the opener before raising his level in sets two and three, serving well and maintaining the pressure on the Belgian. Rafa was unhappy with his performance, firing 19 service winners but standing 32-36 from his groundstrokes.

Still, Bergs also sprayed 36 unforced errors, losing ground in the pivotal moments and sending the veteran through. Nadal grabbed three points more than his rival, having the upper hand in the shortest and most advanced exchanges.

A ten-time champion denied seven out of nine break points and converted three out of seven break chances, controlling the pace in sets two and three and moving over the top. Zizou got broken in the fourth game of the match, sending Rafa 3-1 in front.

Rafael Nadal, Rome 2024© Mike Hewitt / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal has 70 wins at two Masters 1000 events.

However, the veteran suffered a break in the next one after the rival's return winner, allowing Bergs to return to the positive side.

The Belgian played well on the return at 4-4, creating three break chances and seizing the second after the Spaniard's double fault. Zizou gained a boost and closed the opener with a hold at love in game ten, landing a winner at the net and moving closer to a notable victory.

Nadal saved two break points in the second set, earning an early return game and controlling the pace. Rafa outplayed Zizou in the opening games, producing two holds at love and delivering a break in the second game. Nadal saved a break point in the fifth game, remaining in front and holding after deuce two games later for a 5-2 lead.

Rafa served for the set in game nine and faced a break point. He denied it with a service winner and landed a forehand winner to close the set and force a decider after an hour and 49 minutes.

Rafael Nadal, Rome 2024© Mike Hewitt / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Nadal used that momentum and fired a forehand winner at 1-1 in the final set, earning a break and moving in front.

Bergs played against another break point in the fifth game, saving it and earning three break chances in the next one. A ten-time Foro Italico champion denied them and grabbed the game for a 4-2 advantage. Rafa had to dig deep on his serve in game eight, bouncing back from 0-30 and holding after Zizou's massive forehand error.

The Belgian held in game nine, reducing the deficit and prolonging the battle before the Spaniard sealed the deal with a hold at 15 at 5-4. It was Nadal's 70th Rome Masters win, but the 71st was out of his reach! Rafa faced Hubert Hurkacz in the second round and scored a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over the king of clay in an hour and 33 minutes, ending the legend's campaign.

Nadal did not have much left in the tank after that Bergs marathon, struggling in the opener after a challenging first game and falling in straight sets.

Rafael Nadal, Rome Masters 2024© Mike Hewitt / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The Pole served at only 54%.

However, he did not face too many issues behind the initial shot after passing that contesting first game, saving all seven break points and pressuring the Spaniard. Rafa served at 72% but gained nothing, struggling to impose his strokes and bring much-needed service winners.

Nadal lost almost half of the points in his games and suffered four breaks, enough to propel Hurkacz through. Hubert controlled the pace with 23 winners and ten unforced errors, adding 22 powerful serves to his tally. Rafa struggled from his forehand, spraying most of his errors from the more substantial wing and experiencing an early exit.

Hurkacz secured a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes, attacking first and playing determined tennis. The Pole denied five break points in the first game of the match, holding after nearly half an hour!

He broke Nadal in games four and six and saved two break points at 5-1 for a boost. Hurkacz barely lost a point behind the initial shot in the second set, delivering two breaks and moving over the top in style.

Rafael Nadal Rome Masters