Rafael Nadal 2022

Rafael Nadal out in Rome, goes to Roland Garros without clay title for first time since 2004

Rafael Nadal has been dumped out of the Italian Open and will for the first time since 2004 enter Roland Garros without at least one clay title under his belt. 

In fact, it is the first time ever that the ‘King of Clay’ will enter the Paris Slam without a clay title to his name beforehand since he did not play Roland Garros in 2004.

Nadal was taking on Denis Shapovalov for a sixth time in their career and despite going up a set eventually fell 6-1, 5-7, 2-6.

Shapovalov said of his shifting tactics in the second set: “I was just trying to change something.

“[Nadal] was completely outplaying me at the beginning of the match.

“So I’m definitely really happy to turn it around.”

Worryingly, Nadal began to display signs of physical discomfort in that second set and particularly near the end of the encounter, something that certainly contributed to his form late on.

Shapovalov was of course happy to win but also acknowledged Nadal’s physical demeanour.

He said: “It’s obvious to see something was going on especially towards the end of the match.

“Hopefully he’s alright for the French Open.”

This loss from a set up on clay is the first for Nadal since falling to Pablo Cuevas in the semi-finals of the 2016 Rio Open.

Moreover, it is only the third time ever the 35-year-old has lost from a set up on clay at Masters 1000 level.

The previous two instances came against Roger Federer in the final of Hamburg in 2007 and seven years later in the final of Rome 2014 against Novak Djokovic.

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