Nadal passes Isner to Roma in round of 16


Rafael Nadal aims for an 11th title in Rome © AFP / Andreas SOLARO

Rome (AFP), May 11 – Rafael Nadal advanced to the round of 16 at the Italian Open on Wednesday with a straight 6-3, 6-1 victory over John Isner, while Alexander Zverev beat Sebastian Baez.

Third-seeded Nadal made short work of Isner as he aimed for an 11th title in Rome, with the King of Clay beating his American opponent in an hour and 17 minutes under a scorching sun at Foro Italiano.

Losing in the quarter-finals to compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid, Nadal can take advantage of the in-form teenager’s absence from the Italian capital to win the last big clay-court event before Roland Garros later this month. .

The 35-year-old was out for six weeks with a rib injury before returning to the Spanish capital last week, but Isner put up little resistance to the 21-time Grand Slam winner.

“I need to rebuild things after a tough stoppage and that’s what I’m trying, just to keep the right attitude and let’s see if I’m able to do that,” Nadal said on the pitch.

The match swung in Nadal’s favor in the eighth game, when Nadal beat veteran world number 27 Isner before serving to win the first set.

From there, Nadal took the win, dropping just 14 points on his way to setting up a third-round clash with Denis Shapovalov.

“I have to play better than today, but after a while it’s another win and tomorrow another chance to play against one of the best players in the world,” Nadal added.

Previously, Zverev managed a 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 win over Baez in just over an hour and a half.

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Second-seeded Zverev, who was largely beaten by Alcaraz in the Madrid final this weekend, will face either Tommy Paul or Alex de Minaur.

A grueling first set went with serve until the fourth point in the tie-break, when German world number three Zverev took a 3-1 lead.

Baez fought back at 6-6 but Zverez beat the Argentine before serving the set and securing his passage to the third round in a less complicated second set.

Former champion Karolina Pliskova was kicked out of the women’s tournament after being beaten by Switzerland’s Jil Tiechmann 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Pliskova had made all three previous finals in Rome, winning the title in 2019, but the sixth seed lost to 24-year-old Tiechmann in a battle that lasted two hours and 40 minutes.

Third seed Aryna Sabalenka made it to the next round with a routine 6-2, 6-0 win over Shuai Zhang, while Coco Gauff is also in the last 16 after beating fellow American Madison Brengle 6-2, 6-4.

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