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From Madrid to Rome, the clay season battles continue

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Alexander Zverev of Germany competes Kei Nishikori of Japan at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center on August 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP /TASOS KATOPODIS / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Germany’s Alexander Zverev kisses his trophy as he celebrates defeating Austria’s Dominic Thiem after their ATP Madrid Open final tennis match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 13, 2018. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

The Italian International Open (Internazionali BNL d’Italia), also tagged La Dolce Vita, kicked off with world number two player, Rafael Nadal as top seed. The battles of the previous week in Madrid dovetail into this week of the ATP Tour, as the seedings pitch the titlist, Alexander Zverev, in the second spot, with the absence of Roger Federer, who perches on the number one spot with 720 points more than Nadal.

Zverev’s success in Spain was achieved in a stunning manner, as he did not drop a set in winning 18 consecutive sets since the beginning of the clay season. Coming after his successful defence of the title in Hamburg, Zverev became primus inter pares among his peers; especially in the victory over Dominic Thiem.

In the final match, the Austrian star did not attain the level that enabled him to dismiss Nadal in straight sets; after surviving a first round scare against qualifier from Argentina, Frederico Delbonis. In the first round match against Bona Coric, Thiem also narrowly escaped defeat in the second set tie break; before subsequent straight set wins over Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson. Could those long matches have made him weather-beaten by the time he faced Zverev in a match he committed 21 unforced errors?

Concern about fatigue applies to all the top players; especially Rafael Nadal. When he lost in the quarter-final in Madrid, it was an opportunity for some rest. He had started with the Davis Cup in April and played to the titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

Nadal needs to win the tournament and have the 1000 points in order to regain the top spot in the rankings. If, however, the fatigue factor plays out in Rome and the penultimate Rolland Garros, how far can Rafael Nadal, the King of clay, go in his quest for a seventh title in Italy and 11th in Paris?



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