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MX News Update 2024

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Nadal wants to lose the fear factor after winning the opener against Rome

Rafael Nadal said he can no longer afford to fear injury after fighting in the second round of the Rome Open on Thursday, with Roland Garros looming.

Clay court icon Nadal came back from a set down to beat qualifier Zizou Bergs 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Italian capital with a gritty performance that will need to improve when the Spaniard faces his next opponent , the world champion. number nine Hubert Hurkacz.

Should he progress, Nadal will also have last year’s winner, world number four Daniil Medvedev, and defeated finalist Holger Rune on his side of the draw.

The 37-year-old took almost three hours to beat Belgian side Bergs as he continued his comeback and bid to play at Roland Garros, most likely for the last time.

REPORT | Italian Open 2024: Nadal beats qualifier Bergs in three sets to face Hurkacz in second round

Nadal has lately been a shadow of the player who won 22 Grand Slams in a storied career that also included a record 10 titles in Rome, battered by injuries and slumped to 305 in the world rankings after missing out on almost all of them . last year.

“I have Roland Garros in just two and a half weeks… I have to prove myself if I can push my body to the limit, I have to push to feel ready for what is to come,” Nadal told reporters.

“I’m not just talking about Roland Garros. I’m talking about the next match. I need to get rid of this fear. Matches like today help.

“Some moments I went faster. Some moments not. I have to get used to it, taking that risk… I feel more willing to try than before.”

Nadal fights through

Nadal has said he will only play at the French Open, where he has won 14 times, if he feels competitive and although he showed glimpses of his old self against 108th-ranked Bergs, he struggled with his serve and he seemed far removed from the Grand Prix. Lettuce standard.

Outsider Bergs, 24, is an eight-time title winner on the Challenger tour and had competed against high-profile players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rune in previous tournaments.

The hard-hitting Belgian pushed his great rival to the limit, briefly looking like he could win the biggest match of his career to date before Nadal fought back to take victory.

Naomi Osaka continued her winning return to Rome by beating Marta Kostyuk in straight sets 6-3, 6-2, setting up a third-round clash with 10th seed Daria Kasatkina.

Japan’s Osaka defeated Russia’s Kasatkina in the pair’s only other meeting, when Osaka won the 2018 Indian Wells final.

Japan’s Osaka breezed past Kostyuk to claim her first-ever win over a top 20 opponent on clay, a day after making her Foro Italico comeback following a three-year absence.

Osaka is ranked 173rd in the world after taking a break from the tour to have her first child, but looked a class above Kostyuk and won the rain-interrupted match in 71 minutes.

Later, world number one Iga Swiatek begins her bid for a third Rome title against American Bernada Pera after winning a thrilling final in Madrid last weekend.