Rafael Nadal Roland Garros 2022

Rafael Nadal claims he ‘needs to lose this fear’ after opening victory in Rome

Rafael Nadal has claimed a record 200th Masters 1000 victory on clay, with the Spaniard suggesting that he needs to push himself more ahead of Roland Garros.

Nadal beat Belgian qualifier Zizou Bergs, 4-6 6-3 6-4, in the first round of the Italian Open, with the 37-year-old continuing his record of having never lost back-to-back matches on clay.

Despite the victory, the former No.1 admitted that it was not his strongest performance, “That was not my best match, I was practising better than I played today, but I found a way to win.

“That’s so important at the beginning of the tournament. My game is more unpredictable than before, I didn’t play much tennis for the last two years so have some ups and downs, on and off, but I think I can do much better than today and I hope to do it next round.”

Nadal has played three consecutive tournaments after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury, with the Mallorcan claiming that he needs to prove himself ahead of Roland Garros.

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

“I’m not talking about only about Roland-Garros, I am talking about the next matches. 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 taking that risk. But it’s a moment to make that happen. And I feel more ready to try it than before.”

Nadal will look to push himself more tomorrow when he takes on ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz in Rome, in a first time meeting between the pair.

Inside the baseline…

Although it is not the Rafael Nadal on clay that we are used to, being forced to come from a set down is probably a good thing for his progress, as he needs to play as much tennis ahead of Roland Garros as possible. There will be a very different test against for Nadal against Hubert Hurkacz, which will really test the Spaniard’s serve as the Pole will probably have plenty of comfortable service games of his own.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.