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Italian Open men’s second round preview: Pablo Carreno Busta vs Rafael Nadal

World number two Rafael Nadal will play for the first time in over six months when he faces compatriot and US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round of the Italian Open.


Nadal decided to skip the revised hard court summer in the US over safety fears and today’s match will be the first time he has appeared on court since he won the Acapulco Open in February. The nine-time Italian Open champion is arguably the favourite to win the title once again despite his recent lack of match play.

In Carreno Busta he faces a man fresh off a second Grand Slam semifinal. The world number 18 reached the last four in New York for the second time and was two sets up in his last four contest before falling to Alexander Zverev. He has had less than a week to travel across continents and to navigate what is expected to be a challenging change in surface.

The pair have met five times previously and, rather worryingly for Carreno Busta, he has only won one set across those meetings. On the younger Spaniard’s preferred surface of hard courts, Nadal dropped just seven games in their last meeting at the Australian Open back in January.

The big unknown coming into this match is how both men will deal with the challenge facing them. Nadal has not played for over six months and may be lacking a little match sharpness, though clay is naturally the easiest surface for him to return to. Carreno Busta is a strong mover and has the capability to trouble the second seed though still may be weary from his exertions in New York over the past couple of weeks.

There may be signs of rust in the opening stages of the encounter but it would be incredibly surprising if Nadal did not prevail here. All eyes will be on his serve and forehand to see what kind of statement he sets as he looks to win a tenth title in Rome, and ultimately fend off the likes of Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem to win a staggering 13th title at the French Open in a few weeks time.

Prediction: Nadal in straight sets

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.