Nadal wants to lose fear factor after winning Rome opener

Rafael Nadal said that he can no longer afford to fear injury after battling into the second round of the Rome Open on Thursday, with Roland Garros looming on the horizon.

Published : May 10, 2024 08:27 IST , Rome - 3 MINS READ

Rafael Nadal in action.
Rafael Nadal in action. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Rafael Nadal in action. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Rafael Nadal said that he can no longer afford to fear injury after battling into the second round of the Rome Open on Thursday, with Roland Garros looming on the horizon.

Clay court icon Nadal bounced back from a set down to beat qualifier Zizou Bergs 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Italian capital with a gritty performance which will need to be improved upon when the Spaniard faces his next opponent, world number nine Hubert Hurkacz.

Should he progress further Nadal also has last year’s winner, world number four Daniil Medvedev, and the beaten finalist Holger Rune on his side of the draw.

The 37-year-old took nearly three hours to see off Belgian Bergs as he continued his comeback and bid to play at Roland Garros, most likely for the last time.

REPORT | Italian Open 2024: Nadal defeats qualifier Bergs in three sets, faces Hurkacz in second round

Nadal has in recent times been a shadow of the player who has won 22 Grand Slams in a storied career which has also brought a record 10 titles in Rome, being battered by injuries and dropping down to 305 in the world rankings after missing almost all of last year.

“I have Roland Garros in just two weeks and a half... I need to prove myself if I am able to push my body to the limit, I need to push to feel myself ready for what’s coming,” Nadal told reporters.

“I am not talking only about Roland Garros. I am talking about the next match. I need to lose this fear. Matches like today help.

“Some moments I was moving faster. Some moments not. I need to get used to that, to take that risk... I feel more ready to try it than before.”

Nadal battles through

Nadal has said that he will only play at the French Open, where he has won 14 times, if he feels competitive and although he showed glimpses of his old self against 108th-ranked Bergs he struggled on his serve and looked a long way from Grand Slam standard.

Outsider Bergs, 24, is an eight-time title winner on the Challenger tour and had in previous tournaments taken sets off high-profile players like Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rune.

The hard-hitting Belgian pushed his big-name rival all the way, briefly looking like he might win the biggest match of his career to date before Nadal fought back to take victory.

Naomi Osaka continued her winning return to Rome by seeing off Marta Kostyuk in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2 to set up a third-round clash with 10th-seed Daria Kasatkina.

Japan’s Osaka beat Russian Kasatkina in the pair’s only other meeting, when Osaka won the 2018 Indian Wells final.

Japan’s Osaka breezed past Kostyuk to claim her first ever win over a top 20-ranked opponent on clay, a day after she made her Foro Italico comeback after a three-year absence.

Osaka is ranked at 173 in the world after taking a break from the tour to have her first child but looked a class above Kostyuk, winning the rain-interrupted match in 71 minutes.

Later world number one Iga Swiatek begins her bid for a third Rome title against American Bernada Pera after winning a thrilling final in Madrid last weekend.

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