Rafael Nadal awaits Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori in the Rome Masters semifinals after beating Fabio Fognini

Hannah Wilks in ATP 18 May 2018
  • Rafael Nadal awaits Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori in the Rome Masters semifinals
  • Nadal dropped the first set against Fabio Fognini but came back to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 and snap a three-match losing streak in Rome quarterfinals
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Rome at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify) 
Rafael Nadal on his way to victory over Fabio Fognini in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Rome Masters (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal awaits either Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori in the semifinals of the Rome Masters after defeating Fabio Fognini.

Watch and bet on tennis live from Rome at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify) 

Nadal has lost in the quarterfinals at the Foro Italico for the past three years but came back from a set down to beat Fognini 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 and book his place in the semifinals.

Losing the first set despite holding a commanding 4-1 lead, Nadal dominated the second and third sets to put an end to Fognini’s dream of delivering a miracle run for the fervent home fans at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, which no Italian man has won since Adriano Pannatta in 1971.

Seven times a champion at the Foro Italico, Nadal is looking to capture the title for the first time since 2013 this week, having fallen short in the quarterfinals in Rome for the past three straight years – to Stan Wawrinka in 2015, Novak Djokovic in 2016 and Dominic Thiem in 2017. He has every incentive to do well in Rome: Winning an eighth Rome Masters title would see him recapture the world no. 1 ranking he resigned to the absent Roger Federer after losing to Thiem in the quarterfinals of last week’s Madrid Masters.

Fognini had secured a brilliant win over Thiem earlier in the week to the delight of the Rome crowd, and backed it up by beating Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk to make the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters for the first time in his career. The Italian, whose languid style belies his lethal shotmaking – he ended the match with 29 winners to Nadal’s 16 - had beaten Nadal on three previous occasions and twice on clay and his home fans certainly seemed to believe he could repeat the feat on Friday.


But the overall head-to-head coming into the match stood at 10-3 in Nadal’s favour and despite Fognini’s unlikely comeback to claim the first set, the Italian was unable to keep pace with the ten-time Roland Garros champion over the course of the two-hour, 14-minute match.

In many ways it should have been a straight-sets victory for Nadal. The Spaniard secured the first break in the fourth game of the match when Fognini was broken despite leading 40-15, and held serve for a 3-1 lead. Nadal seemingly had his chances to break again with Fognini serving at 1-4, but the Italian held on – and then went on the attack on Nadal’s serve after a couple of unusual errors from the Spaniard, perhaps frustrated at failing to secure the double break. A backhand slice error from Nadal gave up a fourth break point and Fognini landed a magnificent forehand return winner down the line to get back on serve at 3-4.

Fired up by getting back on serve and roared on by the Court Centrale crowd, Fognini reeled off the next three games to take the first set 6-4. But it didn’t take long for Nadal to re-establish order in the second set. Holding serve to end Fognini’s run of five games won, Nadal broke to lead 2-0 after a poor backhand unforced error from the Italian set up break point, converted when Fognini opted to send a drive volley right back at Nadal instead of going into the open court, allowing the Spaniard an easy forehand pass winner. 

Nadal held for 3-0 with an ace and unlike the first set, secured the double break with ease, closing out the second set to love having denied Fognini a single point on the Italian’s second serve. The third set, despite Fognini’s best efforts, was all Nadal, who won eight straight points and broke to love to lead 2-1. Fognini received treatment on his left knee but it was to no avail as Nadal continued to grind him down from the back of the court, breaking again to secure the 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory.

Having snapped his three-match losing streak in quarterfinals at the Foro Italico, Nadal will feel much more positive going into the semifinals. Not only has he never lost a semifinal match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, he will face one of two players who are both far from their best after struggling through difficult periods of injury – long-time rival and one-time nemesis Novak Djokovic, or Kei Nishikori, whom Nadal beat in the final of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters a few weeks ago.


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Rafael Nadal awaits Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori in the Rome Masters semifinals after beating Fabio Fognini

Seven-time Rome Masters champion Rafael Nadal lost five games in a row to drop the first set against Fabio Fognini but secured a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory to set up a potential semifinal clash with long-time rival Novak Djokovic

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