Nine-time Italian Open champion Rafael Nadal is finally back on the ATP Tour and his beloved clay courts. The world number two has been handed a tough draw at the event. Playing for the first time in over six months, Nadal has a confident outlook but admitted before his opening match that he needs match practice to feel fit.
Nadal has been having intense practice sessions in the build-up to the tournament and looks eager to get back on the court. However, the 12-time French Open champion admitted that his match fitness is probably worse than usual.
“I am similar to always, maybe a little bit worse. I didn’t compete for the last six months,” Rafael Nadal said during a media interaction before the tournament. He then stressed the importance of playing matches regularly. “It’s obvious that to feel your 100 percent, you need matches,” Nadal added.
Rafael Nadal confident despite tennis hiatus
The ‘King of Clay’, as he is fondly called by his fans, said that despite those factors, he had plenty of time to negate them and work on his fitness to be ready, come match time. “But here I am. I arrived with plenty of time to try to have the right practices. That’s what I’m doing,” Nadal continued.
The second seed at the Italian Open, Nadal faces an in-form Pablo Carreno Busta, in the Round of 32. Carreno Busta reached the semi-finals of the US Open 2020. He even led Alexander Zverev by two sets in the semis but eventually lost.
The Spaniard, Nadal, spoke about the challenge of his countryman. “I know I have a tough first round against Pablo. He’s playing great, so let’s see,” Nadal added.
Tough draw in the bid for ‘La Decima’
If he beats Carreno Busta, Nadal could face Western and Southern Open finalist Milos Raonic in the third round. Diego Schwartzman and Andrey Rublev are potential tests in the following rounds. Nadal could then face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals, before a highly anticipated clash against Novak Djokovic in the final.
Nadal is a two-time defending champion in Rome and is on a 10-match winning streak there. He is looking to become the first man to win at least 10 titles at four different events.