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Rafael Nadal through to second round of Italian Open after comeback victory

Rafael Nadal through to second round of Italian Open after comeback victory

Rafael Nadal fought back from a set down to qualify for the second round of the Italian Open with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory over Zizou Bergs in Rome.

Nadal, looking to win the tournament for a record 11th time but the first since 2021, broke Bergs first but the 24-year-old Belgian qualifier hit back to claim the opening set and threatened a setback against the king on the gravel.

But then Nadal’s quality prevailed and the 37-year-old Spaniard secured victory in two hours and 54 minutes to set up a second-round meeting with Hubert Hurkacz.

Playing in front of a packed center court crowd, Nadal drew first blood in the first set when Bergs smashed a shot into the net to leave the former world number one 3-1.

Tennis Open Italy
Nadal came from a set down against the Belgian Bergs (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Another double fault from Nadal furthered Bergs’ cause before the world number 108 won the first set in style with an emphatic mid-air volley.

Nadal started the next set just as he started the match with three straight points before a medical emergency in the crowd brought things to a halt.

After the restart, the 22-time grand slam winner broke Bergs to go 2-0 ahead, and after saving a break point in the fifth game, sealed the set to level matters.

Nadal broke again early in the fifth to reduce the chance of a shock defeat and fought back from 0-40 with five straight points to take the lead 4-2, and there was no way back for Bergs.

Nadal, who has said on several occasions that this will likely be his last season on tour, admitted he had not been at his best but was happy with his progress.

He said: “That wasn’t my best match. I practiced better than I played, but I found a way to win and that’s important at the beginning of the tournament.

“I haven’t played much tennis in the last two years, with some ups and downs, but I think I can do much better than what I did today.

“It’s always emotional to play here and the most important thing in my tennis career. The crowd has been important to me, so I’m super excited to play here again.”