Rafael Nadal‘s bid for the 11th crown on International BNL of Italy enjoyed a smooth start on Wednesday afternoon as the legendary Spaniard blunt a big serve John Isner record a 6-3, 6-1 victory in the second round of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament.
Nadal has been untouchable at Foro Italico for most of his career and immediately looked poised in his return matches against Isner, opposing the huge American with his trademark swivel kicks from the field. Although Isner competed well without a holder, he had a hard time regaining momentum after missing two break points 3-3 in the first set while Nadal dominated the second set and set a 69-7 record in the Italian capital.
Nadal identified his victory in the seventh game of the first set as a key milestone in his eighth victory on the tour over Isner. “I finished better than I started, no doubt,” the Spaniard said after the match. “The beginning of the match was not good for me.
“He had a few chances back and had two break points. [He had] two not heavy balls so I was in his arms at the time. I was lucky he missed those punches and then I managed to break. Then the game, of course, changed. With the first set on the board, and with a break in the first game of the second [set]everything has changed. ”
The victory continued Nadal’s return to competitive action after he reached the quarter-finals Mutua Madrid Open last week after a six-week break due to a rib injury. Lost from the final champion Carlos Alcaraz in Spain, a win over Isner ensured that Nadal had never lost consecutive matches on the ground, and Wednesday’s victory brought him to 44-0 in matches following a defeat on the surface.
An equal introductory set depended on the seventh and eighth games, as Nadal saved two break points to hold before breaking the American by 5-3. He served to win the set as Nadal began to raise his level to the delight of the passionate Italian audience.
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Nadal’s return match continued to look in good shape against the former 8th world number Isner, and the 36-time Masters 1000 champion broke the 27th place three times in the second set and completed a pleasant victory of 76 minutes. The win was built on the relentless consistency of Nadal, who made just three unforced errors in the match.
“I was just focusing on myself,” Nadal added when asked about his improvement in the second set. “I focused on trying to move on. I knew I had to do things better than I did, and I had to practice to try to do it better and better.”
The Spaniard meets another North American star, the 13th seed, in the third round Denis Shapovalov. The pair met in an unforgettable semi-final in Rome last year, when Nadal saved two match points before beating the Canadian in a tie-break in the deciding set after three hours and 27 minutes.
“Last year was a joke, a game I saved here against him,” Nadal said.[I was] super lucky. I know how dangerous he is, I have to play well, of course. I have to play better than today, but after some time without on the field it is another victory and again I have the opportunity to play against one of the best players in the world.
“I have to rebuild things after a tough break and that’s what I’m trying to do now. I just need to stay with the right attitude and see if I can make it.”