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Nadal knocked out; Swiatek wins 25th straight match

May 13, 2022 06:43 IST
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Nadal knocked out of Italian Open by Shapovalov in last-16

Rafael Nadal

IMAGE: Spain's Rafael Nadal leaves court after losing his third round match against Canada's Denis Shapovalov. Photograph: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

Rafael Nadal was knocked out of the Italian Open after the 21-times major winner was beaten 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 by Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the last-16 of the Italian Open on Thursday.

Nadal had a solid start, but the 35-year-old struggled physically towards the end of the contest, raising doubts over his fitness ahead of the French Open, which he has won a record 13 times.


The Spaniard, who has endured a string of injuries during a career spanning more than two decades, dominated the opening set with his brilliant return of serves.

Canadian Shapovalov responded in style by racing to a 4-1 lead in the second set with his energetic and attacking play, but Nadal got back into the contest by winning the next three games.

Nadal saved a set point at 4-5 but a series of unforced errors and lack of aggression from him saw the match go into the deciding third set.

World number four Nadal broke through right away at the start of the decider but later limped with an apparent foot injury, likely related to his chronic left-foot problem.

Shapovalov went won 17 of the last 20 points, completing his comeback as he handed Nadal his earliest Rome exit since 2008.

"I am not injured. I am a player living with an injury. That's it," Nadal told reporters.

"I started the match playing much better. My practice was much better, the warm-up, than the other day."

"Then when these kind of stuff happens, the rest of the things, the rest of the positive things disappears."

Shapovalov said he hoped Nadal would recover in time for the French Open, which starts on 22nd May.

"Definitely tough to see him in pain there at the end. I never want to see that, especially with a great legend like Rafa," he added.

"He's been winning so much, I think it's almost been difficult for him to stop playing and kind of take it easy."

Earlier, Novak Djokovic ended Stanislas Wawrinka's hopes of stringing together a hat-trick of match wins for the first time in 18 months with a 6-2, 6-2 thumping.

The 37-year-old Swiss, who had not played for 12 months after undergoing two surgeries for a foot injury, battled past Reilly Opelka and Laslo Djere to set up a 26th meeting with top seed Djokovic in the Italian capital, and first since 2019.

The 361st ranked Wawrinka, who last won three successive matches at the 2020 Paris Masters, could not cope with Djokovic's baseline intensity in the first set and was broken twice.

Wawrinka showed incredible defence to break Djokovic in the sixth game of the second set but a double break from the world number one carried him to victory.

It was Djokovic's 20th win over Wawrinka, and 998th career victory, as he bids to become the fifth player to reach the 1000-win mark.

"It is great to see Stan back," the Serbian said. "He won two matches here, he is still physically not there, but he is still Stan and can hurt you."

"From the beginning I really moved him around the court and held my serve well. I know what is expected from me next."

Djokovic will face Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime in the quarter finals after the 21-year-old beat American Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-2.

Alexander Zverev chalked up a century of match wins at Masters 1000 events with a 6-3, 7-6(5) win over Australian Alex de Minaur, while world number five Stefanos Tsitsipas battled back from a set down to beat 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 Russian Karen Khachanov.

Local hope Jannik Sinner reached his first quarter-final in Rome with a 6-2, 7-6(6) victory over Filip Krajinovic, while fifth seed Casper Ruud won 6-3, 6-4 against Jenson Brooksby.

Swiatek wins 25th straight match to reach Rome quarter-finals

Iga Swiatek

IMAGE: Poland's Iga Swiatek in action during her second round match against Belarus' Victoria Azarenka. Photograph: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

World number one Iga Swiatek stretched her winning streak to 25 matches by beating Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-1 in the last 16 of the Italian Open in Rome on Thursday.

Poland's Swiatek, who has put together the longest winning run since Serena Williams racked up 27 victories in 2015, will face 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the quarter-finals of the claycourt event on Friday.

"I just hope I'm going to start better, maybe start more aggressively and just putting pressure on her, but also playing a little bit more solid and less unforced errors," said Swiatek when asked about facing Andreescu.

"I already played against her in juniors on clay, and it was super tight, super tight match. I know it's going to be hard."

Swiatek was 0-3 down in the opening set as she found herself under pressure from Azarenka's return game, but the 20-year-old bounced back by taking the next five games.

With Swiatek serving for the set at 5-3, former world number one Azarenka saved four set points and broke to get back on serve. Swiatek eventually broke Azarenka on her fifth set point to finally seal the set.

The 2020 French Open champion dominated the second set, breaking Azarenka four more times to wrap up the match in just under two hours.

Swiatek is seeking her fifth title this season, having won in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Stuttgart.

Andreescu reached her first WTA 1000 quarter-final in 14 months by defeating qualifier Petra Martic 6-4, 6-4.

The 21-year-old Canadian, who returned to action in Stuttgart last month following a six-month mental health hiatus, is making her debut in Rome.

Third seed Aryna Sabalenka defeated Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-4 to reach the Rome last eight for the first time, while Jil Teichmann beat Elena Rybakina 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-5 in a match that lasted more than three hours.

In an all-American battle, Amanda Anisimova emerged a 6-2 6-2 winner over Danielle Collins, while fourth seed Maria Sakkari defeated Coco Gauff 6-4, 7-5.

Daria Kasatkina knocked second seed Paula Badosa out with a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

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