World No. 1 Rafael Nadal overcame a thrilling encounter in his Rome opener to maintain his campaign at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. His next match-up is against Mikhail Youzhny, whom he holds a 10-4 head-to-head record against. Rafa has won their last four consecutive encounters dating back to 2008.
While top seed Rafael Nadal had a surprisingly easy draw in Madrid en route to the title, he was given a stern, albeit unexpected, test on Wednesday afternoon, when he faced off against France’s Gilles Simon for 3 hours and 18 minutes. It went down as the longest three-set encounter so far this season, and ended in thrilling fashion.
Nadal hit 4 aces, 32 winners and won 79% of his first service points. He did also manage 2 double faults and 30 unforced errors.
“The conditions were difficult, it was very cold and the ball didn’t bounce a lot,” said Nadal. “It was a tough moment in the second set, but this was the first match on clay where I had to suffer, mentally and physically. I was not playing bad and I am happy to have dealt with that kind of anxiety.”
“I look forward to playing the third set because these are the matches that give me more satisfaction, the ones that test you very deeply. I did it and I am very happy.”
Nadal is now 42-2 in Rome.
Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny had a much easier time in his second round match-up, as he was up 7-5, 4-1 in his contest against qualifier Andrey Golubev, when he was forced to retire with an abductor strain.
This marks the fifteenth time these two competitors will meet on the professional tour with Nadal leading the head-to-head series 10-4. The Spaniard has won their last four consecutive encounters, including a clay court match-up in their most recent outing last season in Madrid. Rafa is 3-0 against Youzhny on clay.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Straight Sets