Rafael Nadal and Jannik Sinner met for the second time on the ATP Tour in the second round in Rome. In the battle of the top-20 stars, Rafa scored a 7-5, 6-4 triumph in two hours and 70 minutes, passing a formidable obstacle and making a winning return after the Madrid Open quarter-final loss to Alexander Zverev.
Last year at Roland Garros, Jannik challenged Rafa for almost three hours, doing the same in Rome and finishing on the losing side after standing a break up thrice! 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, the nine-time champion came from 4-2 down to rattle off the last four games and cross the finish line. Rafa was pleased with how he performed, doing many things right on the court against a tough 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 a very tough opponent, and I'm happy with the outcome.
I'm delighted with the victory. I think Jannik is a very complete player, and he is still improving all the time. You can't recognize the improvement in one day. I mean, to see the players' progress, you need to follow their tournaments regularly? You follow Jannik, and you would 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 very good crosscourt forehands to avoid his great backhand cross or down the line strokes. I think I did well.
His level is not a surprise for me; I know how mighty his strokes are. I stepped on the court respecting Jannik a lot, and I was focused in every point. That helped me to earn the win. We played during the night sessions, and the conditions were slow.
Rome is different from Madrid; you can't 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.