‘Last year was a joke’ – Rafael Nadal sets repeat of 2021 Italian Open thriller
Rafael Nadal will once again meet Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open after downing John Isner without much fuss.
The 10-time champion in Rome extended his head-to-head with the American to 8-1 by ousting him 6-3, 6-1 in under an hour and a half on court.
Nadal did have difficulties holding at 3-3 in the opener, but Isner failed to convert his two break point opportunities before the Spaniard stayed unbroken in the match.
The world number four said of his performance today: “I finished better than how I started without a doubt.
“I was lucky that [Isner] missed a couple of shots [on break points] and that I got the break.
“Then the match changed.”
Next up, the Spaniard will take on Denis Shapovalov in a repeat of their third round battle at last year’s event.
The Canadian had two match points in that encounter before Nadal eventually prevailed before going on to claim the time in the Eternal City.
The 35-year-old added after defeating Isner: “Last year was a joke, the match that I saved against him.
“I was super lucky, I know how dangerous he is.
“I need to play well of course, better than today.”
Nadal and Shapovalov have faced off five times previously including that Rome match and another in the Italian capital back in 2018.
The 21-time Major champion leads the head-to-head 4-1, with the younger man having won since their first meeting at the Canadian Masters back in 2017 when he was just 18 years old.
Then ranked 143rd in the world, the now world number 16 entered that draw as a home wildcard before reaching the semi-finals after downing Nadal in the last 16.
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