Nadal eyes French Open bid despite second-round exit at Italian Open

Nadal eyes French Open bid despite second-round exit at Italian Open

ROME – Despite an early exit at the Italian Open, Rafael Nadal is leaning towards playing at the upcoming French Open, which he has won a record 14 titles.

The 37-year-old Spaniard, who was knocked out in the second round in Rome after losing 6-1, 6-3 to Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz on May 11, had earlier said that he will head to Roland Garros only if he feels competitive.

And the manner of his elimination in his first-ever encounter with 27-year-old Hurkacz was a step backwards after reaching the last 16 in Madrid, leaving a question mark over his plans in what is set to be his last season.

“The decision, as you can imagine, is not clear in my mind today. But if I have to say what’s my feeling and if my mind is closer one way or the other way, I’m going to say be in Roland Garros and try my best,” said Nadal, who has slipped to world No. 305 after a raft of injuries over the last two years.

“Physically I have some issues, but not probably yet enough to say not playing in the most important event of my tennis career. Let’s see what’s going on, how I feel myself mentally tomorrow, after tomorrow, and in one week.”

Nadal held his own in the first two games in the first set, which took 26 minutes to complete. Hurkacz had saved Nadal’s five break points to hold for 1-0, but the Pole then let slip two break chances in the second game.

“That was probably the longest three games I will ever play in my life,” said Hurkacz, who will face Tomas Etcheverry in the third round. “I think I found my serve and that definitely helped my confidence build.”

Nadal’s challenge then faded away as errors handed Hurkacz points.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion twice gave away breaks of serve with miscued drop shots in the first set, which Hurkacz closed out in 49 minutes as he blew through five straight games.

The match was as good as done when Hurkacz, who did not drop a single service game, broke Nadal in the third game of the second set and went on to end the Spaniard’s love affair with Rome.

Tournament organisers told the media that Nadal turned down a post-match farewell celebration on court after what was almost certainly his last appearance at the Foro Italico.

Nadal, who won a record 10 Rome Open titles, rejected the ceremony as he was “98 per cent, not 100 per cent” sure that he would not be back again.

Meanwhile, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic dismissed doubts over his continued participation in Rome after an “accident” following his second-round 6-3, 6-1 win over France’s Corentin Moutet.

The 24-time Grand Slam winner was left crouched on the ground in agony after a bottle struck him on the back of the head while he greeted fans following his victory.

Djokovic wrote on X: “This was an accident and I am fine resting at the hotel with an ice pack. See you all on Sunday.”

The 36-year-old, who was later seen arriving for training wearing a cycling helmet, will face Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo on May 12.

In the women’s draw, Iga Swiatek fought past Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-4 on May 11 to reach the last 16.

The world No. 1 is bidding to become the first person since Serena Williams to claim a third title at the Foro Italico.

She will next face former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, who defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Swiatek, who won the Madrid Open last weekend, said: “I’m happy with the way I played… I knew what I wanted to improve. At the end I’m happy that I finished in two sets.”

Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is also in the last 16, after beating 10th seed Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-3. AFP

Related Articles