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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, May 11, 2022

 
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Rafael Nadal broke in four of John Isner’s final five service games toppling the American 6-3, 6-1 to roll into the Rome round of 16.

Photo credit: Internazionali BNL d'Italia Facebook

Emerging from a shadow, the sight of 6’10” John Isner rumbling forward behind his twisting serve offers little wiggle room for returners.

Rafael Nadal shattered a sizeable obstacle with convincing strikes.

More: Shapovalov Screams At Rome Fans Shut the F--k Up!

Nadal broke in four of Isner’s final five service games toppling the towering American 6-3, 6-1 to roll into the Rome round of 16.




Launching his quest for a record-extending 11th Rome crown, Nadal didn’t produce his most dynamic tennis, but he didn’t drop serve either.

Growing stronger as the match progressed, Nadal raised his 2022 record to 23-2.

Tennis Express

Rebounding from his Madrid quarterfinal loss to 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, Nadal sustained a pair of imposing streaks.

Nadal has yet to suffer a clay-court losing streak in his career, improving to 44-0 in his next match after a dirt defeat. The king of clay continues to pulverize Americans on clay: Nadal is now 19-0 against American opponents on dirt.

Though Nadal looked a little jittery early today, he calmed an uprising in the seventh game then seized control.

A pair of double faults saw the Spaniard face two break points in the seventh game. Isner had a good look at a forehand on one of the break points, but missed the mark as Nadal held for 4-3.

The former Georgia Bulldog lacked his typical bite on serve and Nadal pounced. When Isner botched a routine forehand volley into net, Nadal had the first break and a 5-3 lead. Nadal stamped a love hold to snatch the opening set after 45 minutes.




Empowered by the lead, Nadal proceeded to extended it with efficiency.

A weary Isner put a diagonal forehand into net as Nadal seized the double break for a 4-1 second-set lead. A deft drop volley confirmed the break for 5-1. Nadal slashed one final forehand to close in 76 minutes.

The owner of 62 clay-court titles wasn't done with his day of play yet.

After the victory, Nadal ventured to Court 2 to practice trying to get more reps and sharpen his strokes ahead of Roland Garros later this month.

"I need to work as much as I can to be ready for in a couple of weeks," Nadal said. "Of course, tomorrow is the priority today. But at the same time, the medium term, long term, I need to keep going.

"The only way for me to give myself a chance to recover the level that I want to recover, or I want to reach, is to work. The match today was not that strong physically or demanding physically, so I felt myself a little bit more can keep helping, no?"

The 13-time Roland Garros champion sets up an intriguing round of 16 clash vs. Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian left-hander beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 7-6(5).

Left-handers Nadal and Shapovalov have a history and it’s generated some electricity.

Last May, Nadal nullified a pair of match points edging Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) in an epic three-hour, 27-minute Rome battle. Nadal went on to dethrone defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 to capture his record-extending 10th Rome championship and 88th career title in a dramatic Internazionali BNL d'Italia final.

In January, Nadal pushed through pain fending off 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 to reach his seventh Australian Open semifinal en route to his record 21st Grand Slam crown Down Under.

The Rome rematch should be another tough test for Nadal.

No. 2-seeded Alexander Zverev shook off his blow-out loss to Alcaraz in Madrid on Sunday with a clean victory today.

The 2017 Rome champion zapped eight aces and did not face a break point defeating dangerous Argentinean qualifier Sebastian Baez 7-6(6), 6-3 in a match that featured just one break point.




Zverev scored the lone break for a 5-3 second-set lead, winning eight of the final 10 points to prevail.

Olympic gold-medal champion Zverev will play either Alex de Minaur or American Tommy Paul for a quarterfinal spot.

 

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