Italian Open 2021: Rafael Nadal vs Jannik Sinner Preview; Head-to-Head and Prediction

Published 05/10/2021, 6:30 PM EDT
Tennis – ATP 500 – Barcelona Open – Real Club de Tennis Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain – April 23, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his quarter final match against Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie REUTERS/Albert Gea


Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, who recently won the Barcelona Open, was offered a stunning defeat by Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Masters. The Spaniard will now move to Rome, intending to clinch a record tenth title. 

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But Nadal has a defining roadblock in the form of Jannik Sinner, as they are all set to face each other in the second round of the Italian Open tomorrow. Both Nadal and Sinner didn’t perform well in Madrid. While Sinner lost to Alexei Popyrin in the second round, Zverev got the better of the Spaniard. 

Tennis – ATP 500 – Barcelona Open – Real Club de Tennis Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain – April 25, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates with the trophy after winning the Barcelona Open against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas REUTERS/Albert Gea
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The Italian Open draw presents problems to Nadal, and it won’t be easy for him to win the title as top players like Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem are also participating in the event. 

Italian Open 2021: Rafael Nadal vs Jannik Sinner Preview

Jannik Sinner will be the underdog heading into this enthralling contest, but there has been incredible pressure on the youngster to excel in every tournament he plays. With the Italian Open being his home tournament, Sinner is expected to play at a high level right from the word ‘go’. 

The youngster stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round last year and lost against Grigor Dimitrov in the pre-quarters. 

On the other hand, Rafael Nadal has had a shaky clay-court stint so far and is expected to bounce back stronger after the Madrid Open dismissal. The conditions in Rome are different from Madrid, and this might suit the Spaniard. Nadal resumed the tour last year in Rome and lost to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals. 

Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Monte Carlo Masters – Monte-Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France – April 14, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action during his second round match against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Also, Novak Djokovic’s arrival at the Italian Open might create trouble for Nadal. If he wins against Sinner, he will have a potential third-round clash against Denis Shapovalov or Casper Ruud. His projected quarter-final opponent could once again be Alexander Zverev.

The performance of the Spaniard at the Rome Masters will give a fair idea of his chances to clinch the French Open this year.

Head-to-Head

The duo played against each other in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros last year. The Spaniard won the match 7-6(4), 6-4,6-1. The Italian showed intense determination during the first set of that match, but his level drastically dropped as the match progressed.

But the Italian has been improving his standards with each passing year, and he is expected to step up and damage Nadal’s rhythm. The tennis world can expect a few enthralling matchups between these two over the next year or so.

Italian Open 2021: Rafael Nadal vs Jannik Sinner Prediction

No matter how good or bad his past performances were, Rafael Nadal can never be discounted on the red dirt. His gameplay suits naturally to the surface and tires his opponents.

The Spaniard struggled with his serve in the quarter-final loss to Alexander Zverev. While a part of his struggles can be attributed to Madrid’s high altitude, his lack of consistency on the red turf this year is a worrying aspect.

As far as Sinner is concerned, he might try to go hard at Nadal in the first few games to have an outside chance of winning the match. The young Italian loves to play aggressively when needed and is also a proven defense tactician.

Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Monte Carlo Masters – Monte-Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France – April 14, 2021 Italy’s Jannik Sinner in action during his second round match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Owing to the strong baseline game of Sinner, the Spaniard might improvise his game and look to play a few drop shots to confuse the youngster. Entering the match as an underdog, the Italian can freely swing his racquet and work out a game plan in the first few games.

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There cannot be one single strategy when it comes to defeating Rafael Nadal on clay. On this note, Sinner will have to use a mix of baseline-volley approaches to ensure that he holds his serve before looking to dominate the return games.

All in all, the matchup promises to enthrall tennis fans across the globe with a lot of entertaining rallies as Nadal begins his hunt for a tenth Rome Masters title.

Final Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets

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Sagar Ashtakoula

231 articles

Sagar Ashtakoula is a tennis writer at EssentiallySports. He has been following the sport since 2007. Having developed an interest in creating content, he mixed his passion for writing with his love for tennis for 2 years at SportsKeeda before joining the tennis team at EssentiallySports.

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