Rafael Nadal seeks the tenth Rome Open crown this week, hoping for a good result after three straight quarter-final losses at the Masters 1000 events on clay. Rafa will have to work hard right from the opening match, facing the top-20 rival Jannik Sinner in a challenging second-round clash.
Nadal and Sinner trained a couple of times in 2020, and the Spaniard was impressed by the youngster, playing the first official match against him last October in Paris and inviting Jannik to train with him this January ahead of the Australian Open.
Sinner will try to score the first victory over Rafa at the home event, although without the crowd to support him. Nadal is aware that his opponent is only going forward, gaining places in the ATP ranking list and playing with a lot of confidence.
At Roland Garros, Sinner produced bold and aggressive tennis to challenge Nadal like no other rival in Paris during the fortnight, serving for the opening set and having a break in the second before the Spaniard scored a 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 triumph in just under three hours.
Rafael Nadal and Jannik Sinner are battling in the Rome Open second round.
"I was playing great in Madrid. Then, there were a couple of bad games against Alexander Zverev in the quarters. Everything went wrong after that, despite the fact I looked good on the practice court.
Here in Rome, we have to adapt to different conditions, as they are entirely different from Madrid. It will be a tough start as I face Jannik Sinner, one of the best players I could have drawn. He is very young, and he improves his game every day.
His ranking position is only getting better, and he plays with a lot of confidence. He played great in Miami to reach the final, and it will be tough to beat him. I'm always trying my best, regardless of the rival, and I will do the same against Jannik.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't; that's a sport. I know how well he plays, and I have to match that level. I'm excited to face him again and to compete in Rome for another time," Rafael Nadal said.