Nadal sensationally lost in Rome and left the court limping
The 10-time champion of the prestigious Italian Masters did not reach the 1/4 final. The Spaniard could no longer fight the pain in the third set.
There was a sensation at the ground level Masters in Rome. The reigning champion Rafael Nadal sensationally lost in the third round, and he left the court with a limp. And there are only 10 days left before Roland Garros!
Last year, the final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was the highlight of the Masters in Rome. The Spaniard won his 10th Grand Slam trophy and now, with the draw for the next one, many fans and experts are looking forward to a semifinal between the two multiple Grand Slam champions. However, this match still had to be reached by everyone. Djokovic made it to the quarterfinals, defeating Aslan Karatsev and Stan Wawrinka. Nadal, however, did not. What happened to the King of the Grounds?
Rafael started the mainland season late. After losing to Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final, the Spaniard had to nurse a rib injury. He missed the Masters in Miami and Monte Carlo as well as the beloved ATP 500 tournament in Barcelona. Nadal came back only in Madrid, where he reached the quarter-finals and lost to young Carlos Alcaraz, who is said to be Rafa’s own heir. Nadal, the top seed, missed the first round in Rome, but had no trouble getting past John Isner in the second round, 6-3, 6-1.
In the 1/8 finals Rafael got quite a difficult opponent – Denis Shapovalov. The fact is that the Canadian with Russian roots is one of the few players on the tour, who can boast several victories over Nadal. Prior to the match in Rome, the score of official personal meetings was 4-1 in favor of the Spaniard. Denis defeated Rafa in Montreal 2017. But we can also remember an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi in December 2021, when Shapovalov was again stronger than the Spaniard. And for one more match – in the semifinals of Paris 2019 – Nadal did not come out at all. As for the last meeting, it took place in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open – 2022 and took place in very dramatic circumstances. Shapovalov came back from 0-2 down in sets but then lost to Nadal in the fifth crucial game.
Now in Rome Nadal started very vigorously, overpowering the Canadian with pace and sharp punches. After 43 minutes the Spaniard won the game, giving away just a game to his opponent, 6-1. But in the second game, Nadal had problems. At a press conference, the Spaniard said he felt a sharp pain in his leg, which he had been trying to heal for many years. From game to game Shapovalov seized the initiative and won the second set, 7-5, and evened the score. In the third set, he did not manage to win the match at all. After the score was 2-2, Nadal could no longer hide his pain, he limped, did not reach the balls and quickly lost. 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in favor of the Canadian.
After the match Rafael was very upset and told reporters, “I felt a lot of pain in the second set. But it’s not an injury. I live with the pain. It’s something that accompanies me all the time. Days like today, you just have to accept it and try to move on. It’s not easy for me, though. I play to be happy. I like to play, I like to compete. But living with pain is very hard in many ways. I hope I can keep playing. As for Roland Garros, that’s still the goal. We’ll see what happens in a couple of days. My doctor will be with me in Paris. I hope things will be different there.”
The third-round exit is Nadal’s earliest loss at a tournament in Rome since 2008. Then he lost in the 2nd round, after which he invariably reached at least the 1/4 final. This defeat means Rafael will be out of the Top 4 on Monday, which means he could end up with a top-four finish at Roland Garros: Djokovic, Medvedev, Zverev or Tsitsipas.