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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday September 16, 2020

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal returned to the red clay with an emphatic victory over Pablo Carreno Busta in Rome.

Photo Source: Getty

Rafael Nadal. Red clay. What could go wrong?

Not much, apparently.

Tennis Express

The nine-time Rome champion returned to familiar stomping grounds at the Foro Italico in Rome and eased past compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta to join Novak Djokovic in the third round on Wednesday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Nadal, playing his first official match since winning his 85th title at Acapulco in February, eased past Carreno Busta 6-1 6-1 in 73 minutes to improve his lifetime record at Rome to 62-6.

It was business as usual, with one critical ingredient missing: fans.

“Strange feeling, of course, going out there,” Nadal said. “Not beautiful, the feeling, playing without spectators because the energy of the fans is impossible to describe, but for me at least it has been today a very positive comeback. I played a solid match, maybe Pablo was a little bit tired from a great tournament in New York, but thinking about myself I played a very solid match, doing a lot of things very well, so very happy.”

Nadal faced only one break point and did not surrender a break of serve, despite the fact that he only made 49 percent of first serves. In total, he only lost eight points on serve, and broke Carreno Busta five times on nine opportunities.

The 34-year-old said he’s pleased to have another chance to compete in Rome, and isn’t thinking of this tournament as a preparation for Roland Garros.

“Of course I have to improve things, no? But the things that I have to improve, the only way to improve them is to keep practicing with the right attitude and the right intensity, and to spend hours on the competition matches, that’s the way,” Nadal said. “And today has been a positive start for me that gives me the chance to win a good match against a tough opponent and to give me the chance to play again after tomorrow.”

Nadal will face either Milos Raonic or Dusan Lajovic in the round of 16 on Friday.

“Positive news that I’m going to be able to pay one more match right away. I never take Rome like preparation for nothing else,” Nadal said. “Rome is one of the most important and historic tournaments in our sport, so I always come here with the highest motivation possible, and this year of course the situation is different but I am going to keep trying my best.”


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