10 May 2024

Rafael Nadal battles past Zizou Bergs in Italian Open first round

7:08 am on 10 May 2024
Rafael Nadal (ESP) competes in men's single semifinal during Roland-Garros 2022, day 12, on June 2, 2022, Roland Garros Stadium, Paris, France. Photo Philippe Millereau / KMSP (Photo by MILLEREAU Philippe / KMSP / KMSP via AFP)


Ten-time champion Rafael Nadal overcame losing the opening set to defeat Belgian qualifier Zizou Bergs 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and reach the Italian Open second round in Rome, as the Spaniard's steady progress continued.

Nadal, who last won the title in Rome in 2021, was given a stiff test by the 24-year-old in a match which lasted almost three hours on centre court, and now faces Polish seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz.

"That was not my best match, I was practising better than I played today, but I found a way to win," said Nadal.

The 37-year-old former world number one broke first to make it 3-1 in the opening set, but Bergs bounced back immediately with a break of his own, and broke again to make it 5-4 before holding serve to take the set.

Nadal steadied himself and made an impressive start to the second set, taking a 3-0 lead after an early break and winning both service games to love, and although Bergs forced break points in two later games, Nadal held on.

The deciding set brought another early break for Nadal to take a 2-1 lead. Bergs then had four break points when 4-2 down, but lost his chance to get back into the match and Nadal finished off the job.

Rafael Nadal on his way to winning the 2022 French Open title in Paris in 2022.

Rafael Nadal could be in his last year as a pro. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

After spending most of last year out with a hip injury, his return in January was cut short after a muscle tear in Brisbane, but last month he reached the second round in Barcelona and the fourth round in Madrid, as he builds up to the French Open.

"My game is more unpredictable than before, I didn't play much tennis for the last two years so have had some ups and downs, on and off, but I think I can do much better than today and I hope to do it next round," Nadal said.

Nadal's second round tie with Hurkacz will be his first match against the Polish 27-year-old.

- Reuters