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Rafael Nadal edges past qualifier Zizou Bergs in Rome opener

Rafael Nadal defeat Zizou Bergs in Italian Open 2024

Rafael Nadal’s return from injury continues with a hard-earned victory at the Rome Open. The “King of Clay” wasn’t his dominant best, but his fighting spirit prevailed as he battled back from a set down to defeat qualifier Zizou Bergs 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The opening set was tight, with both players trading blows from the baseline. However, Bergs, a big-hitting Belgian ranked 108th in the world, surprised the crowd by snatching the first set 6-4. Nadal, still regaining his peak form after a three-month layoff, seemed a touch hesitant in his movements.

But fans of the 22-time Grand Slam champion know never to count him out. The second set saw a shift in momentum. Nadal tightened his serve, unleashing his trademark forehand winners with more venom. Bergs, despite his impressive shot-making, couldn’t sustain the pressure. Nadal took the second set 6-3, setting the stage for a thrilling decider.

The final set was a dogfight. Both players showcased incredible defensive skills, retrieving seemingly impossible shots. Bergs, known for his success on the Challenger tour, wasn’t overawed by the occasion. He continued to challenge Nadal, especially on his second serve.

However, Nadal’s experience shone through in the clutch moments. He broke Bergs’ serve at 4-4 in the final set, eventually serving for the match at 5-4. A nervous forehand error gave Bergs a glimmer of hope, but Nadal closed it out with a powerful ace, sealing a hard-fought victory after nearly three hours on the court.

In the next round, Nadal’s win sets up a mouthwatering clash with World No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz. However, the Spaniard’s path to a record-extending 11th Rome title will be challenging. His half of the draw also features last year’s champion Daniil Medvedev and the young gun Holger Rune, who pushed Nadal to the limit last year.

While Nadal might not be at the peak of his powers yet, this victory is a significant step in his comeback journey. His fighting spirit and ability to raise his level in crucial moments remain undimmed. As he regains his fitness and matches sharpness, expect the “King of Clay” to be a serious contender at the upcoming French Open.

A big shoutout needs to go to Zizou Bergs. The qualifier pushed Nadal to the limit and showcased his talent on a grand stage. This performance will undoubtedly boost his confidence and could be a springboard for bigger results in the future.

The Rome Open continues to be a thrilling tournament, and with Nadal progressing, the excitement will only build. Can he overcome his challenges and reclaim his clay court throne? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure, Nadal is back and hungry for victory.