Tagged in: Italian

Novak Djokovic into Italian Open quarterfinals; Rafael Nadal ousted by Denis Shapovalov

Rafael Nadal struggled with a foot injury toward the end of a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 third-round loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open on Thursday, while rival and top-ranked Novak Djokovic eased his way into the quarterfinals.

At one point, the 35-year-old Nadal walked over and leaned on his towel box and grimaced in apparent pain. He also limped between points.

Nadal missed a large portion of last year with a left foot injury.

“I hurt my foot again with a lot of pain,” Nadal said. “I’m a player living with an injury. It’s nothing new. It’s something that is there, unfortunately. Day by day is difficult.”

It was a worrisome scene for Nadal — especially with the French Open starting in 10 days.

“What can happen in the next couple of days, I don’t know,” said Nadal, who has won Roland Garros a record 13 times. “What can happen in one week, I really don’t know now.”

Nadal returned to the tour last week following a rib stress fracture that kept him out for six weeks after a blistering start to the year that involved his record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

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“It’s difficult for me to accept the situation sometimes,” Nadal said. “Can be frustrating that a lot of days I can’t practice the proper way.”

Nadal was also defeated by 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of last week’s Madrid Open.

Nadal double-faulted twice, then missed a backhand long to hand Shapovalov a break of his serve and the second set. Shapovalov then took complete control when he won 14 consecutive points late in the third.

Nadal stated his foot started hurting midway through the second set, adding: “Then [it] wasn’t playable for me.”

Djokovic was untroubled in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Stan Wawrinka, who was playing only his second tournament after undergoing two surgeries on his left foot.

Djokovic, a five-time champion in Rome, will next play Felix Auger-Aliassime, who ended the run of American qualifier Marcos Giron with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph. It will be the first meeting between Djokovic and Auger-Aliassime.

The loudest cheers of the day were for Jannik Sinner, the 20-year-old Italian who beat Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6 (6) to reach the quarterfinals for the first time at his home tournament.

Sinner will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who rallied past Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 for a tour-leading 29th victory of the year.

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Rafael Nadal bounces back with win over John Isner at Italian Open

Once is enough when it comes to beating Rafael Nadal on a clay court.

Throughout his career, Nadal has never lost consecutive matches on his favorite surface and the Spaniard extended that perfect record Wednesday by defeating John Isner 6-3, 6-1 to reach the third round of the Italian Open.

Nadal was coming off a loss to 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open quarterfinals last week. After a first-round bye, he improved to 44-0 in matches on clay following a loss on the surface.

Perhaps more importantly, Nadal regained some confidence as he works his way back from a rib stress fracture that kept him out for six weeks before the tournament in Madrid.

While he would clearly love to add to his record total of 10 Italian Open titles, Nadal’s bigger objective is regaining his top form in time for the French Open, which starts in less than two weeks. Nadal has won 13 of his 21 Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros.

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When the match finished, Nadal headed straight to the practice court to hit more balls. He explained that he’s a “bit in a rush” to find his best form “as soon as possible.”

“I need to work as much as I can,” Nadal said. “The match today was not that demanding physically.”

It was essentially decided during one brief stretch.

Nadal struggled on his serve at 3-3 in the first set, missing a forehand into the net then double-faulting to set up break points for Isner. But the American made unforced errors on both of his break-point chances and Nadal eventually held.

In the following game, Nadal broke Isner’s serve when the 6-foot-10 American missed a comfortable forehand volley into the net. Nadal then held at love to close out the first set and broke Isner’s serve in the opening game of the second.

“I finished better than I started — without a doubt,” Nadal said. “He had some chances on the returns. I was in his hands in that moment. Lucky that he missed those shots.”

Nadal improved to 19-0 versus Americans on clay, having been forced to a deciding set only twice — both times by Isner, who pushed Nadal to five sets at the 2011 French Open and three sets at the 2015 Monte Carlo Masters.

Up next, Nadal meets Denis Shapovalov, the Canadian he beat at the same stage last year in a grueling three-set comeback triumph in which the Spaniard saved two match points.

“Super lucky,” Nadal said, reflecting back to playing Shapovalov last year. “I know how dangerous he is. I need to play better than today.”

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Serie A halted due to coronavirus outbreak

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Monday that Serie A is suspended indefinitely as the country continues to struggle to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Play has been halted until at least April 3, according to the Italian national Olympic committee, as the country comes to a standstill over the outbreak of a disease that has spread to at least 97 countries. Italy on Monday also banned public gatherings and unnecessary travel for the entire nation.

“We’re having an important growth in infection… and of deaths,” he said.

“We all must give something up for the good of Italy. We have to do it now, and we’ll only be able if we all collaborate and adapt to these more stringent measures.

“This is why I decided to adopt even more strong and severe measures to contain the advance… and protect the health of all citizens.”

Italy’s top football division had resumed Sunday with five games played in empty stadiums.

Sassuolo hosted Brescia on Monday, also behind closed doors.

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Teams have either 12 or 13 games to play, with eight-time defending champion Juventus holding a one-point lead over Lazio; Serie A has not been canceled since World War II.

CONI said its decision did not include international competition “for clubs or national teams,” because it does not govern those. Juventus, Napoli and Atalanta are each competing in the Champions League, while Inter Milan and Roma are still in the Europa League.

Events around the world have been affected by the spreading virus, including Champions League matches and Japan’s professional baseball season. Late Sunday, one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world was postponed.

In France, police said that the Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund at Parc des Princes will be played without fans.

It is the second of the four matches in the competition this week to be played in an empty stadium. Spanish authorities previously recommended restrictions on games involving teams from areas in Italy with high numbers of virus cases and said the Valencia-Atalanta match on Tuesday will take place without fans in attendance.

Leipzig’s match against Tottenham on Tuesday and Liverpool’s home game against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday are expected to be played with fans.

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