The match of the day in Rome absolutely has to be the rematch between Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas, scheduled in the early afternoon spot. Following three heavy losses to the Spaniard, Tsitsipas came up with an amazing performance to earn his first win over Nadal – making the Madrid final with the three set victory.
Tsitsipas was another beneficiary of a withdrawal following the overwhelming Thursday where he and others had to play two matches to get the tournament back on schedule. His wins over Jannik Sinner and Fabio Fognini were fairly routine so it’s disappointing to have missed the planned quarter final matchup with Roger Federer. “I stayed concentrated. I was very pumped to do well. I think that helped. Yeah, really glad with my performance. Stayed aggressive. I played well today. I think that helped a lot.” he had said after the second of those Thursday wins. That Tsitsipas has not yet suffered a letdown in performance level is very impressive.
Any worries Nadal might not be at his best going into Paris continue to be erased after another crushing win for him on Friday. He has lost just 6 games in his three matches so far, beating Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-0 to move on. He was 4-4 0-40 down against his countryman before turning it up a notch and never looking back. “I think I had a good feelings during the whole match. Then after winning that first set, in the second… of course he slows down a little bit, but I was able to play a little bit more aggressive with the forehand. I did a lot of things well this afternoon.”
Nadal’s hopes of bagelling a fourth straight opponent look to be slim at best, especially with Tsitsipas morphing into a legitimate contender for both this title and the French Open. The Greek showed his fearlessness last week, going into Nadal’s home tournament and outplaying him for good parts of the match. With Novak Djokovic the likely opponent in the final, the weekend of tennis on the men’s side looks to be providing several thrillers with the form these guys are in.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in three sets