WATCH: Rafael Nadal takes court in Rome as he ramps up prep for title defence
Before the Madrid Open is even over Rafael Nadal is already on the practice courts of the Foro Italico in Rome as he chases a record-equalling 37th Masters crown.
The world number four lost to young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals of Madrid, giving him time to transition from the Spanish capital to the next event in Rome.
Nadal is among the favourites to claim the title at the 2022 Italian Open in what would be a successful defence of his 2021 triumph, his 10th in the Eternal City.
Should he win the tournament there again, that would bring him level with rival Novak Djokovic as the man with the most Masters 1000 titles.
As the first opening round matches get underway in Rome, Nadal can ease into the event with a first round bye as he looks to adjust from the altitude of Madrid back to sea level, conditions much closer to those of Roland Garros.
Of course, fans will be hoping for a record-extending 59th ATP meeting between the Spaniard and biggest rival Djokovic.
That would only come should both men make it to the semi-finals.
The two played out an epic in their 57th meeting in the final of last years Italian Open, with Nadal winning to equal their Masters tallies at 36 at that time and bring their head-to-head to 29-28 in favour of the Serb.
Djokovic then famously downed Nadal in the last four of Roland Garros to make it 30-28 before claiming a sixth Paris Masters title later in 2021 to pull ahead in the Masters race again too.
Nadal will face either American big-server John Isner or a qualfiier in his first round match, while Djokovic will take on the winner of Aslan Karatsev and Lloyd Harris.
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