Rafael Nadal returns to winning ways on clay with Rome victory over John Isner

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Rafael Nadal bounced back from his Madrid Open defeat to Carlos Alcarez to get the better of John Isner in straight sets at the Italian Open  (Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal bounced back from his Madrid Open defeat to Carlos Alcarez to get the better of John Isner in straight sets at the Italian Open (Getty Images)

Clay-court king Rafael Nadal got back to winning ways on the surface with a routine victory over John Isner to progress into the last-16 of the Italian Open.

Nadal lost to teenager Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid last week but ensured he bounced back to continue his record of never suffering back-to-back defeats on clay with a 6-3 6-1 triumph to begin his pursuit of an 11th title in Rome.

The 21-time grand slam champion, who was recently sidelined with a rib injury, will face Denis Shapovalov. The pair competed in a three-hour and 27-minute epic clash at the same stage in the Italian capital last year.

“I need to play better than today, but after a while without being on court it is another victory and I have the chance again to play against one of the best players in the world,” Nadal said, as quoted by atptour.com.

“I need to build things again after a tough stoppage and that’s what I am trying now. I just need to stay with the right attitude.”

Second seed Alexander Zverev, who won this tournament in 2017, also progressed on Wednesday with a straight sets win over Sebastian Baez.

I need to play better than today, but after a while without being on court it is another victory.

Rafael Nadal

Former French Open winner Stan Wawrinka extended his stay in Italy with another gutsy win, coming from a break down in the decider to edge out qualifier Laslo Djere and bring the crowd to their feet.

It has earned Wawrinka, who had gone over a year without a win following more surgery in 2021, a meeting with Novak Djokovic for a place in the quarter-finals.

Elsewhere in the men’s draw, last year’s Roland Garros runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas got the better of Grigor Dimitrov in three sets but only after he saved two match points to earn a 6-3 5-7 7-6 (4) triumph.

Women’s world number one Iga Swiatek made it 24 wins in a row with a comfortable victory over Elena-Gabriela Ruse in the second round.

Aryna Sabalenka also progressed in quick time with a 6-2 6-0 win against Zhang Shuai but there were surprise defeats for sixth seed Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza, who was seeded eighth, in the round of 32 stage.

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