Rafael Nadal eliminated in the 2nd round of the Masters 1000 in Rome

Rafael Nadal eliminated in the 2nd round of the Masters 1000 in Rome
Rafael Nadal eliminated in the 2nd round of the Masters 1000 in Rome

Rafael Nadal, who is attempting a final return to the forefront at almost 38 years old, was soundly beaten in the second round of the Masters 1000 in Rome by the Pole Hubert Hurkacz, winner 6-1, 6-3, on Saturday. The former world No.1, now 305th in the ATP rankings after an almost blank 2023 season, had not been eliminated from the Roman tournament so prematurely since 2008.

Two short rounds and gone: Rafael Nadal, who is attempting a final return to the forefront at almost 38 years old, was soundly beaten during the 2nd round of the Masters 1000 in Rome, dress rehearsal for Roland-Garros. The Spaniard lost to the Pole Hubert Hurkacz who clearly dominated him 6-1, 6-3. The former world No.1, now 305th in the ATP rankings after an almost blank 2023 season, had not been eliminated from the Roman tournament so prematurely since 2008.

Farewell tour

For his farewell tour at the Foro Italico, where he won ten times, the last time in 2021, he fell against an opponent, 9th in the world, who physically suffocated him. If the first two spectacular games lasted 14 and 12 minutes respectively, Hurkacz then took the upper hand by relying on his serve. The Pole, not really a clay court specialist, even if he won the Estoril tournament this year, won the first round in 49 minutes.

As in the first set, he took Nadal’s serve, supported by an Italian public all in his cause, from the third game and was no longer worried. Nadal will approach his probable final Roland-Garros (May 26-June 9) having played only eight matches on clay, for a record far from his standards on his favorite surface. After his forced three-month break to treat yet another injury, he fell in the second round in Barcelona, ​​in the round of 16 in Madrid and did not make it past the second round in Rome.

He still needs to really show up at Porte d’Auteuil: he in fact recalled this week that he will only be at Roland-Garros if he “feels good”.

Hurkacz executioner of legends

There are some (small) reasons for hope for “Rafa” before returning to the Parisian clay court where he won fourteen times: his body, battered, held up and he showed in each of his catches speaking in Rome a newfound confidence. But it’s quite a challenge that awaits the Spaniard at Roland-Garros where the matches are played in three winning sets and are therefore longer.

Hurkacz has reinforced his reputation as the executioner of legends: the Pole is the last player to have faced in an official match, and therefore beaten, Roger Federer, in the quarter-finals of the Wimbledon tournament in 2021. “Playing against Rafa is always special, especially on clay where he has such a track record and he has become a legend, I am really happy with this victory,” he said. In the next round, he will face Argentinian Tomás Etcheverry, earlier winner of Brazilian Thiago Wild 6-3, 7-5.

Djokovic victim of an unusual incident

Novak Djokovic, the other attraction of the Roman tournament in the absence of the Italian Jannik Sinner, injured in a hip, is still in the running, but was the unintentional victim of an unusual incident on Friday evening. At the end of his easily won match against Frenchman Corentin Moutet 6-3, 6-1, Djokovic, 36, was knocked out by a water bottle that fell from the stands while he was signing autographs for spectators below.

After a few hours of confusion, organizers announced Friday evening that Djokovic had a minor injury to the top of his head which required the use of surgical glue. The Serb confirmed overnight that everything was fine and that he will be able to play his third round match on Sunday.

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