Rafael Nadal progresses to second round of Italian Open after comeback win

Rafael Nadal progresses to second round of Italian Open after comeback win

Rafael Nadal came back from a set down to advance to the second round of the Italian Open with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over Zizou Bergs in Rome.

Nadal, looking to win the tournament for a record-extending 11th time but first since 2021, broke Bergs first but the 24-year-old Belgian qualifier hit back to claim the opening set and threaten an upset against the clay-court king.

But Nadal's quality prevailed thereafter and the 37-year-old Spaniard eased to victory in two hours and 54 minutes and book a second-round meeting with Hubert Hurkacz.

Playing in front of a packed centre court crowd, Nadal drew first blood in the first set when Bergs smashed a shot into the net to leave the former world number one 3-1 up.

However, Bergs rallied with a break of his own in the very next game and, with the scores locked at 4-4, Nadal hit a backhand wide before double-faulting and then smashing one long to hand the qualifier three break points.

Another Nadal double-fault further helped Bergs' cause before the world number 108 clinched the first set in style with an emphatic mid-air volley.

Nadal started the next set much like he started the match with three straight points before a medical emergency in the crowd brought things to a halt momentarily.

After the restart, the 22-time grand slam winner broke Bergs and went 2-0 up and, having saved a break point in the fifth game, sealed the set to level things up at one apiece.

Nadal broke early again in the fifth to ease the likelihood of a shock defeat and battled back from 0-40 with five straight points to move 4-2 ahead, and there was no way back for Bergs.

Nadal, who has said on several occasions that this is likely to be his final season on tour, admitted he had not been at his best but was delighted to progress.

He said: "That was not my best match. I was practicing better than I played but I found a way to win and that is important at the beginning of the tournament.

"I didn't play much tennis for the last two years, some ups and downs but I think I can do it much better than what I did today.

"It's always emotional to play here and the most important in my tennis career. The crowd has been important for me so super excited to play one more time here."

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