Nadal downs Verdasco, sets up Tsitsipas showdown

Reigning champion Rafael Nadal continued his march towards a ninth Internazionali BNL d’Italia title with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Fernando Verdasco in the quarter-finals.

The No. 2 seed narrowly edged a tight first set before dominating the second to set up a semi-final showdown against Stefanos Tsitsipas who beat him at the same stage in Madrid last weekend.

Nadal looked uncomfortable in the first set as Verdasco came out all guns blazing. The 35-year-old played aggressively and was striking the ball well as he broke his compatriot in the opening game and had a point for a double break at 2-0.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion saved that break point and held to open his account, weathering the storm and recovering the break in the sixth game. He was forced to save three more break points three games later as Verdasco continued to outplay him but his grit and determination prevailed and he capitalised when the world No. 38 played a couple of loose shots at 5-4 to claim the opening set.

The second set was an entirely different affair with Nadal in control from the outset. He survived a nine-minute game and three break points at 2-0 in what was the last big challenge from his opponent, who couldn’t maintain the level and intensity of the first set and was also beginning to struggle physically. Under little pressure, Nadal looked relaxed and confident as he eased to a bagel second set and recorded his 17th victory over his countryman.

“The beginning of the match have been good. But he was playing great, being honest. I was not playing bad at the beginning at all. But he was playing unbelievable. No mistakes, a lot of winners, taking the ball early. Was a very difficult first set. Was one of the first sets that I am more happy with,” explained Nadal.

“I think I had a good feelings during the whole match. Then after winning that first set, in the second I was able to — 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. I am very happy to be in semifinals again. Is a good victory.”