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Rome Masters 2018: Rafael Nadal creates record in commanding win over Damir Dzumhur

Nadal returned to winning ways after a shock loss in Madrid last week.

FEATURED COLUMNIST
News 17 May 2018, 12:48 IST
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2018 Italian Open Tennis May 16th
Rafael Nadal celebrates his win at the Rome Masters on Wednesday

What’s the story?

After a shock quarter-final defeat to Dominic Thiem at last week’s Madrid Masters, Rafael Nadal returning to winning ways in his own inimitable style at the Rome Masters on Wednesday. The seven-time champion opened his campaign with a commanding 6-1, 6-0 win over the 31st ranked Damir Dzumhur to reach the third round.

In the process, the 16-time Grand Slam champion created yet another record when he notched up his 100th bagel on the ATP Tour -- the most among active players.

In case you didn’t know

Thiem snapped Nadal’s 21-match winning streak on clay when he sent the Spaniard packing in straight sets at the Spanish capital. Due to that, the southpaw not only failed to defend his Madrid title but also had to relinquish the top ranking to his greatest nemesis, Roger Federer.

The heart of the matter

Without a doubt, Nadal played one of his best matches ever to begin his Rome challenge. He broke Dzumhur five times and did not face a single break point himself.

Interestingly, while Rafa soared high, his last week’s conqueror, Thiem slumped to a 4-6, 6-1, 3-6 defeat to Italian veteran Fabio Fognini. It put paid to all hopes of a blockbuster Nadal vs Thiem quarter-final showdown.

Four-time winner Novak Djokovic showed that he is gaining in confidence with every match. The 11th seed needed just 1 hour 17 minutes to pummel qualifier Nikoloz Bashilashvili 6-4, 6-2.

Third seed Grigor Dimitrov did not have a birthday to remember as he fell 7-6(4), 5-7, 4-6 to Kei Nishikori. Fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro emerged a 7-5, 6-3 winner over Barcelona runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas and Miami Open champion John Isner was edged 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-7(5) by Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

What’s next?

Rafa next faces the 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov, who recently became the Canadian No. 1. The youngster, also a southpaw, is one of the few players to have a winning record over the great Spaniard.

Nadal will be keen to settle scores with him after suffering a narrow three-set defeat to Shapovalov at the latter’s home at the Montreal Masters last year.

Author’s take

Nadal has always been one to push aside setbacks easily and return with a bang and he proved it once again. The Madrid loss was clearly an aberration and Rafa is definitely looking determined to head to Paris with an eighth title on claycourts of Rome.

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