Why Winning Italian Open 2021 Is Important for Rafael Nadal Ahead of French Open?

Published 05/09/2021, 12:59 PM EDT
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Madrid Open – Caja Magica, Madrid, Spain – May 7, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal reacts during his quarter final match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev REUTERS/Sergio Perez


2021 has not been kind to Rafael Nadal. Since the start of the new year, he has had to deal with injury and tough competition from the next-gen stars. Fast forward to the clay-court season, and Nadal is still finding his form despite winning Barcelona Open. Now at Italian Open 2021, he is trying to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title of the year ahead of his title defense at French Open 2021.

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Rafael Nadal walks off the court after losing his quarter-final match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Rafael Nadal’s 2021 clay season

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The clay season usually has the narrative of Rafael Nadal steamrolling his opponents. But in 2021 there is a concern. Nadal has not looked convincing at all during this period. In the three tournaments he has played on clay this year, he won the ATP 500 event in Barcelona, other than that he has suffered embarrassing losses in Monte Carlo and Madrid.

In Monte Carlo, Nadal lost in the quarterfinals to Andrey Rublev. In that match, Nadal continued to have trouble with his serve and backhand that derailed his ship. And his second loss at Madrid came at the hands of Alexander Zverev.

In Madrid, Nadal was abysmal against Zverev and lost in straight sets. This has put him in a precarious situation ahead of the Italian Open 2021.

A record 10th Italian Open title for Rafael Nadal in 2021?

Nadal is a nine-time champion in Rome. And the tenth title in Rome will be historic. He will then hold more than 10 titles in four different events. Moreover, he will have the trifecta of having 10 titles in the three prestigious clay-court events in the French Open, Monte Carlo Masters, and Italian Open. Having a fourth ‘La Decima’ would bring something to cheer in the Nadal camp.

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A boost in confidence for Rafael Nadal ahead of French Open 2021

Looking at Nadal’s title triumph in Barcelona, he got a tough competition there. He dropped a set in his first-round against Ilya Ivashka. Then he dropped one against Nishikori and later in the final he had to save a match point to defeat Tsitsipas. Nadal had to grind out matches, and that is something that Nadal rarely faces on clay.

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning French Open 2020. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Italian Open is the last major event before the French Open. It will be a boost in confidence for Nadal if he manages to win in Rome. He has looked timid and frustrated with himself in the past couple of weeks and hence a title triumph against a stacked draw would prove handy.

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Staying closer to World No.2 Daniil Medvedev in the rankings

Furthermore, there is the threat of increasing his gap to Daniil Medvedev in second. Nadal surrendered his World No.2 to the Russian following his Madrid Open exit. And with almost all doors closed for reclaiming the ranking, all Nadal can do is disaster management.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia and Rafael Nadal. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

When the rankings are updated on Monday, Nadal will be 150 points behind Medvedev. Daniil has not won a match in Rome thus he will be improving his rankings if he wins anything there. Whereas Nadal is defending a whole 1000 points from his 2019 triumph.

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Bhavishya Mittal

1226 articles

Bhavishya Mittal is a tennis author for EssentiallySports, who is currently pursuing his Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Manipal University. A former sports editor for The Manipal Journal, Bhavishya has also worked for The New Indian Express. He has a keen eye for many sports but he is a particularly ardent follower of tennis, with a zest to create riveting articles on the ever-evolving sport.

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