Rafael Nadal stops Reilly Opelka’s run, enters Rome final

The Spaniard completed his job in straight sets to reach the final in Rome for the 12th time.

Rafael Nadal in a file photo. (Credit: ATP Tour Twitter)

Rafael Nadal was at his usual best to enter his 12th Internazionali BNL d’Italia final with a straight-set win over Reilly Opelka. The nine-time champion bagged a single break in each set on his way to winning the match 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday. He is only one win away from a record-equalling 36th ATP Masters 1000 title. Moreover, Nadal is only a match shy of winning a single tour-level event on 10 or more times for the fourth time. He has 13 Roland Garros, 12 Barcelona, and 11 Monte-Carlo titles to his name till now.

Compared to the hard-fought victories in the last two rounds against Denis Shapovalov and Alexander Zverev, Nadal was in complete control of the match on Saturday. “I did the thing that I had to do today,” Nadal said in his post-match interview. “It is not an easy, beautiful match to play and, [against] a player like Reilly, [you aren’t going to] have rhythm.”

“You know you are going to have just a few options on your return and you know he can play very aggressive from the baseline. That is what happened at the beginning of the match. He had some options [for the] break and it was super important for me to save those moments.”

500th clay contest

Nadal became only the seventh man in the Open Era to play in 500 tour-level match on clay. He has won 458 of them with a 91.6 percent success rate. The King of Clay, however, needed to save four break points at 1-2 in the first set and quickly capitalised on Opelka errors to get the only break of the opening set.

With the lead intact, the Spaniard had little trouble in seeing out the set. With momentum on his side, the 20-time Grand Slam champions found the break through at 1-1 in the second. That break was enough for him to maintain his lead and reach the Rome final for the 12th time.

“I did a lot of things well [and played with a] good spirit during all the week,” Nadal said. “[There are] a lot of positive things I did on court this week and it is important for my confidence to be back in such an important final like this one.”

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