Unabashed by his defeat at the Madrid Masters, Rafael Nadal aims to continue his resurgence at the Rome Masters and opens his campaign against Philipp Kohlschreiber, to whom he has never lost a set on clay.
Nadal vs Kohlschreiber Rome Masters tennis is live from Rome on Wednesday at 7.30pm local/6.30pm BST. Watch & bet on tennis live from Rome at 365
Rafael Nadal has reclaimed his Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell titles this European clay-court season. Next on his list? The Rome Masters. Nadal starts his campaign vs Philipp Kohlschreiber at the Foro Italico on Wednesday.
Nadal comes into the Rome Masters with all the form in the world after the past few weeks. He is 17-3 on clay so far in 2016 and, if you discount the Golden Swing which saw him lose in the semifinals of the Argentina and Rio Opens to Dominic Thiem and Pablo Cuevas respectively, 13-1. He won his first Masters since Madrid 2014 in Monte Carlo, his ninth title there, and reclaimed his Barcelona Open title too, beating Kei Nishikori – who has taken the title the past two years – in the final.
Nadal’s winning streak was snapped at 13 matches when he lost 5-7, 4-6 to Andy Murray in the semifinals of the Madrid Masters, but the latter has never been his favourite tournament and the conditions in Rome suit him much better: He is 47-4 at the Foro Italico, where he has claimed seven titles, most recently in 2013.
‘I think I had another positive week,’ Nadal said after losing in Madrid. ‘I made it to the semifinals. I've been very consistent every week. This is good news. Today, mentally I was okay. I fought a lot until the end. I tried to look for solutions and I think I did that, but it wasn't enough.
‘I'm competitive. I'm second in the [Race To London] because I'm competing. But the same way I lost, if you look at what happened out there, I could have won. You have to criticise yourself to be able to do things better. You have to criticise yourself to get better and better.
‘I'm on a positive path. I hope to continue on this path. I feel happy competing. I'm comfortable. Also when I train, I train with a lot of joy to continue going this way.’
Nadal’s last outing at the Rome Masters ended with a quarterfinal defeat to Stan Wawrinka and the draw has done the fifth seed no favours this year either: He is projected to meet world no. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, with Roger Federer and Nishikori among possible semifinal opponents. If he beats Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round, he’ll face Milos Raonic or Nick Kyrgios on Thursday.
‘You feel happy when you have less pressure. When you feel good you don't have so much pressure on you. We still have two tournaments in the clay-court season and I achieved more points than last year on clay. So this is something that we've seen,’ Nadal said in Madrid.
‘Also, the feeling that I have when I play in the court and the consistency that I'm showing and general level, it's superior compared to last year's. In these tournaments, I have been able to win two, and one making it to the semifinals, so the clay season is great. Let's try to continue this way and stay with the rhythm.’
Philipp Kohlschreiber (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for BMW)
Rhythm is something that shouldn’t be a problem for Nadal’s second-round opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber. The German, who was ranked as high as world no. 16 in 2012 and is currently ranked world no. 26, is playing his fifth straight week of tennis in Rome after scheduling himself extremely heavily during the clay-court season to maximize his results as he plays some of his best tennis on clay.
The best result of Kohlschreiber’s spring hard-court season was reaching the semifinals of Rotterdam in February where he lost to Gael Monfils and he failed to win back-to-back matches at Indian Wells or Miami, but the German has been racking up some good wins on clay. He lost to Stan Wawrinka in the second round of Monte Carlo but made his second 500-level semifinal of the season in Barcelona, defeating Feliciano Lopez before losing to Nadal. In Munich, Kohlschreiber won the fifth clay-court title of his career, defeating Dominic Thiem in the final, and although he lost in the first round of Madrid he has bounced back well in Rome, opening with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over qualifier Inigo Cervantes.
Nadal and Kohlschreiber have a long history against each other and it isn’t pleasant reading for Kohlschreiber, who has won just one of 13 encounters against Nadal, back on grass in Halle in 2012. Kohlschreiber has never taken a set from Nadal on clay and has never even come close to doing so, failing to get more than four games in a set from Nadal throughout their history. It should be a brief encounter on Wednesday with Nadal moving on to book a place in the third round at the Rome Masters.
Nadal vs Kohlschreiber is scheduled on Centre Court in Rome on Wednesday at 7.30pm local/6.30pm BST