Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Nadal, Swiatek Play Their Opening Matches - UBITENNIS
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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Nadal, Swiatek Play Their Opening Matches

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Rafael Nadal practicing this week in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Another two-week combined event is already underway in Rome, with first round ATP action, and both first and second round WTA action, scheduled for Friday.

Six-time champion Novak Djokovic is the top seed in Rome, after skipping the Madrid Open as he limits his playing schedule.  Both Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz are absent from Rome due to injuries, though the rest of the top 10 men in the world are all present in the men’s singles draw.

Nine of the top 10 women in the world are also in Rome, with Jessica Pegula being the only exception.  Recent Madrid champion Iga Swiatek is atop the women’s singles draw, and is a two-time champ at Foro Italico. 

Thursday’s play is headlined by Swiatek, alongside 10-time champion Rafael Nadal.  Plus, Major champs Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka will also be in action on Thursday.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Zizou Bergs (Q) vs. Rafael Nadal (PR) – Not Before 1:00pm on Center Court

Is Nadal ready to build upon his exciting run in Madrid?  Historically, losing in the fourth round of a Masters 1000 tournament on clay would be an extremely disappointing result for Rafa.  But in what is all but certainly his final year on tour, that was a good result for a physically compromised King of Clay.  He is 6-3 this year, and this fortnight may very well be his last at a Masters 1000 event.

Bergs is a 24-year-old from Belgium ranked 108th in the world.  On the surface, he seems like a pretty good first round draw for Nadal.  However, Zizou advanced to back-to-back Challenger finals last month on clay, winning one of them.  He also won a Challenger title on clay last season.  And Bergs has already won two qualifying matches this week.  The ATP published a brief profile on Zizou here, which includes the background as to why he spent three months hitting nothing but a slice on his backhand.

In what is not surprisingly a first-time career meeting, I still lean towards Nadal as the favorite.  Facing Rafa on clay remains one of the sport’s most intimidating concepts, especially for an unexperienced player at tour level.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Bernarda Pera (Q) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

Swiatek is now 32-4 on the year, after winning her third WTA 1000 title of 2024 in Madrid.  Her victory last Saturday in the championship match over Aryna Sabalenka was epic, with Iga saving multiple match points before winning in a third-set tiebreak.  She was also the champion in Rome in both 2021 and 2022, though a year ago she retired during a quarterfinal match against eventual champ Elena Rybakina.

Pera is a 29-year-old American qualifier who has already claimed three matches this week.  The left-hander also won three main draw matches at Roland Garros a year ago.  Clay is Bernarda’s most successful surface, as both of her career WTA titles have come on clay, which both took place in July of 2022.

Last year in Madrid, Swiatek won their only tour-level matchup by a score of 6-3, 6-2.  And as per Tennis Abstract, Iga has won her last 11 matches against left-handed opponents, with her last loss coming nearly two years ago.  Swiatek is a big favorite to take her opening match in Rome.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Marta Kostyuk (19) – Osaka is a modest 10-8 this season in her comeback from child birth, and is 2-2 on clay after a straight-set win in the first round over Clara Burel.  Kostyuk is 19-8 on the year, and achieved her first Major quarterfinal in Melbourne.  Their only previous meeting occurred at the 2020 US Open, when Naomi prevailed in three.

Coco Gauff (3) vs. Magdalena Frech – Gauff is 21-7 in 2024, but has underperformed thus far on clay, with a record of 3-2.  Frech reached the second week of this year’s Australian Open, yet has a losing record at tour level this season.  And Coco is the player who ended Magdalena’s Aussie Open run this past January, comfortably claiming their only prior encounter by a score of 6-1, 6-2.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Simona Halep Provides Injury Update On Knee Ahead Of US Open

The return of Simona Halep looks a long way away from happening as a knee injury continues to bother the Romanian.

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Simona Halep has provided an update on her knee injury as she faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open.

The former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion’s comeback has not gone according to plan so far as she returned from a doping ban in Miami earlier this year.

However playing time has been limited for the Romanian as her second tournament of the year ended in a first round retirement at a Challenger event in Paris.

As a result of her retirement Halep was forced to miss Roland Garros and Wimbledon as she looked to recover from a knee injury.

The injury is more serious than meets the eye though as Halep provided an update on her knee injury and revealed it’s an injury that has been occurring for the last few months, “I wanted to provide a little health update since I have been away from the court lately. It is not the best news, but I wanted to share all the same,” Halep revealed on Instagram.

“For a few months now, I have been struggling with a knee injury. It’s an injury I have never had before and it has been a tough one to manage, with the pain persisting. It has been a very difficult period (almost two years) mentally and emotionally for me and struggling physically on top of that definitely doesn’t help.

“I have decided to take the time needed to recover properly, rather than training and playing through pain. My instinct has always been to try to come back as soon as possible, but I am not a machine, I am a human being and I need time to recover from everything I have gone through.

“I’ll keep you posted and, as always, want to thank you for your permanent support. I hope to be back on court very soon.”

Halep now faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open which starts on the 26th of August.

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Alexander Zverev Commits To Olympics, Speaks About Miscommunication Between Olympics And ATP

Alexander Zverev is preparing for his Olympic title defence.

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Alexander Zverev has spoken out on the miscommunication between the Olympics and the ATP tour with tennis’ top stars set to miss some big events on the tour.

The German is getting ready to defend his Olympic title that he won in Tokyo as Zverev heads to Paris.

After narrowly missing out on Roland Garros glory, Zverev now has an opportunity at redemption as he aims for a second consecutive gold medal at the Olympics.

However there is a dilemma for big players this year as the same week as the tennis event at the Olympics at the ATP 500 event in Washington.

This is an event that Zverev usually plays but will have to miss it due to playing in Paris.

Speaking out on the miscommunication, Zverev said it’s no secret that the ATP are not best friends on the Olympics but has committed to the historic event, “The ITF or the Olympics are not best friends with the ATP, that’s not a secret,” Zverev was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

Everybody continues their own tour. Yes, the Olympics is one of the, if not the, most important events we have in sports. So, the best players in the world are always going to play the Olympics over anything else, over points and over prize money.

All the top players went to Wimbledon a few years back, despite having no points on the line. It’s about prestige, it’s not about points or money. It’s about winning these kinds of titles and having medals for your country.

That’s what it’s about. I would never choose to play a 500 event over the Olympics. There are no thoughts on that, and I think Washington is going to be quite an interesting 500 event, I would say.

The ATP 500 event in Washington will be headlined by Grigor Dimitrov, Ben Shelton, Karen Khachanov and Frances Tiafoe as they are among those that have chosen ranking points over the Olympic experience.

As for Zverev he is continuing his Olympic preparations in Hamburg where he will face Pedro Martinez in the semi-finals.

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Rafael Nadal Reveals Delight At Setting Up Ajdukovic Semi-Final After Four Hour Victory

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the Bastad semi-finals after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

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(ubitennis/Francesca Micheli)

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the semi-finals in Bastad after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion prevailed in a marathon 6-7(2) 7-5 7-5 victory to reach his first semi-final since Wimbledon 2022.

The Spaniard converted ten of his 21 break point opportunities as he reached the semi-finals.

After the match Nadal revealed his delight at reaching the last four and prevailed Navone for his resilient display, “I lost for some moments my concentration, but I was able to hold physically until the end,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“That is so important for me. Let’s see how I am tomorrow, but today I am alive and in the semi-finals, so that’s very important. There were a lot of changing dynamics in every single set. For moments, he was in control. For moments, I was in control. But at the end, no one was in control! That’s true, and I had a good chance in the second with 3-0. Then I was very close to losing the match in the second set.

“In the third [I was ahead] again with 5-2, but he’s a great fighter and he played a great match. I wish him all the very best for the rest of the season.”

Nadal will now play Duje Ajdukovic in the semi-finals as he aims to continue his eight match winning streak in Bastad with this being his first appearance at the tournament since winning the title in 2005.

The other semi-final will be Nuno Borges against Thiago Agustin Tirante with both players reaching their maiden ATP tour semi-final.

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