Rafael Nadal will be looking for a 10th title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia as he defeated American Reilly Opelka 6-4 6-4 to advance to the final of the Rome ATP Masters 1000. The last man standing between the Spaniard and the trophy will come out of this evening’s match between Lorenzo Sonego and Novak Djokovic, with both having gone past a thrilling quarterfinal earlier in the day.
As Nadal had anticipated in the press conference ahead of the match, holding his serve and seizing the rare chances on return would have been the key to a success today against the tall American and it was the case. Only one break per set decided the result, but it was the Roland Garros champion the first to face a break point.
In the third game, Opelka left his rival petrified with a hammering forehand to go 15-40, but Nadal did not let this intimidate him. A strong point, then an ace and the two break points were saved. A third and a fourth came, but twice more he cleared those and held.
The 23-year-old from Michigan served constantly at about 230km/h but the world number three found a way to contain such power and force his rival to miss. The first break of the match arrived, and it was to Nadal’s favour. Opelka saved three more break points in the next service game, but little he could do on return. With an ace, Nadal sealed the first set.
Far lass break chances characterized the second set: the Spanish player gave none to his rival, while he had three in the third game, capitalizing on the last one. The two went on serve until the end, but it was enough for Nadal to return to the Rome’s final for the 12th time in his career.
“When you play these kind of matches, you know not going to be a beautiful match you not going to find rhythm on the match”, said Nadal after the match: “You’re going to have just a few chances of have a break or even no one. Depends on the court. Is a match that you need to be focus, you need to be with high energy all the time, and try to produce some important moments on the return, be very focus with your serve. It’s important not to suffer much with your serve because if you are suffering a lot with the serve, you feel the stress all the time”.
After a few tough matches this week and even saving match points, Nadal is now feeling much more confident and will go out in tomorrow’s final thinking just about how to win the trophy: “Rome is one of the most important events in the history, my history, the history of my career. In terms of preparation for Roland Garros, I consider the job done. Tomorrow is not at all preparation for nothing. Is a final, an important one, and I want to be competitive. I want to play a good match and let’s see”.