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Tennis • Rafa Nadal Serves A Bagel In Rome • Faces Rising Star Tsitsipas Following Federer Withdrawal

Rafael Nadal of Spain in action against Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia during their mens singles third round match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 16 May 2019. EPA-EFE/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI
Rafael Nadal of Spain in action against Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia during their mens singles third round match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 16 May 2019. EPA-EFE/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI

 

 

By Ricky Dimon • @Dimonator

 

Italy may be famous for pizza and pasta, but Rafael Nadal has been specializing in bakery products at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

 

Nadal baked his third BAGEL  set in as many matches on Friday, getting the best of fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals. The world No. 2 previously lost only one game to both Jeremy Chardy and Nikoloz Basilashvili.

 

Verdasco seemed like he would get a lot more when he broke right away and again when he led 0-40 on Nadal’s serve at 4-4, but it went entirely downhill from there for the underdog.

 

“He was playing great, being honest,” the second seed praised. “I was not playing bad at the beginning at all, but he was playing unbelievable. No mistakes, a lot of winners, taking the ball early. Was a very difficult first set. I think I had a good feelings during the whole match. Then after winning that first set, in the second…of course he slows down a little bit, but I was able to play a little bit more aggressive with the forehand. I did a lot of things well this afternoon.”

 

Nadal will now get his shot at revenge against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday. Tsitsipas just upset him 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 in the Madrid semifinals last weekend, but that does not necessarily mean the straits are dire for Nadal heading into this one. He still leads the head-to-head series 3-1, having dominated their first three meetings all in straight sets.

 

Still, there is plenty of pressure on Nadal. In three previous clay-court appearances this spring, he did not reach the final on any occasion. Coming off a knee injury in Indian Wells, the world No. 2 can spin three straight semifinal showings as a positive. But, of course, it isn’t.

 

“(It is) good news I have been able to be back again in the semifinals (with) another three straight victories,” he said. “I have been in that round during the last five events. First one I didn’t have the chance to play, Indian Wells. The next three, Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, I lost in this round–semifinals. But (to) be there all the time is good news.

 

“What happened (last week in Madrid), I know. The solution, I know. The execution is not easy. The theory is always easy, but the execution is much more difficult. Tennis is a simple sport. After a lot of years here, I know what happened last week, and I going to try to do it better.”

 

Tstisipas has been one of the best players on tour in 2019. The 20-year-old Greek is 29-10 with two titles and a runner-up performance in Madrid, leaving him at No. 3 in the live race to London. Tsitsipas has been both lucky and good so far in Rome, disposing of Jannick Sinner and Fabio Fognini in straight sets before getting a quarterfinal walkover from Roger Federer.

 

Federer cited a leg injury after winning two matches on Thursday over Joao Sousa and Borna Coric.

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in action against Fabio Fognini of Italy during their mens singles third round match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 16 May 2019.  EPA-EFE/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in action against Fabio Fognini of Italy during their mens singles third round match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 16 May 2019. EPA-EFE/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI

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