ATP Rome second round preview: Rafael Nadal - Philipp Kohlschreiber
Philipp Kohlschreiber (left) and Rafael Nadal (right) before their match in Barcelona last month. Photo: Barcelona Open

ATP Rome second round preview: Rafael Nadal - Philipp Kohlschreiber

Rafael Nadal will face an early test at the Italian Open on Wednesday when he kicks off his campaign against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round in Rome.

Pete Borkowski

Rafael Nadal will be looking for a quick turn around after a disappointing defeat in the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open, which broke his 13-match winning streak to start the European clay court season. He will kick off his campaign at the BNL Internazionali d’Italia on Wednesday against Philipp Kohlschreiber.

The match will be fourth on Centre Court, and will not start before 7:30 pm local time (1:30 pm EST)

How they got here

As the fifth seed, Nadal received a bye in the first round. However, his form has been trending downwards since his title run in Barcelona. Kohlschreiber did not have too difficult a time in the opening round, beating Nadal’s compatriot Inigo Cervantes 6-4, 6-2. The German broke serve four times and saved seven of eight break points against his strong serve.

The History

Nadal has dominated this rivalry historically, winning 12 of 13 matches. That includes all four of their previous matches on clay. In fact, Kohlschreiber has never won a set against Nadal on clay on the main tour. They played recently at the Barcelona Open, with Nadal emerging victorious 6-3, 6-3. The German’s lone win over Nadal came on grass in Halle back in 2012

Will Nadal bounce back?

Going into Madrid, Nadal seemed like a sure fire pick to reach the final and perhaps finally defeat Novak Djokovic. However, even as early as round two there were question marks. He struggled early against Sam Querrey, late against Joao Sousa, and finally crashed out against Andy Murray. If that downward trend continues, Nadal could have some trouble, even from an opponent he has traditionally dominated. This is a chance for him to build some momentum before a guaranteed challenge in the third round. He needs to take advantage and play well from the start.

Can Kohlschreiber’s big shots do some damage?

Kohlschreiber likes to go big with his shots and put pressure on opponents. That earned him a victory over the Spaniard on quick grass courts, where that style of tennis is particularly effective. While it’s not as dangerous a style on clay, it can still put opponents in uncomfortable positions. Sam Querrey nearly buried Nadal with his big shots in the third round of Madrid. If Kohlschreiber comes out swinging, at the very least, he could land some blows to Nadal’s confidence. Once Nadal starts making mistakes, anything could happen. But Kohlschreiber will need to go big and create those chances.

Prediction: Nadal in two sets

All that being said, even an off-his-game Nadal can do what it takes to prevent Kohlschreiber from attack. Nadal can keep the pressure on the German and Kohlschreiber simply cannot beat Nadal in a baseline battle. He might hang with Nadal for a little while and put some dents in the armour, but the seven-time Rome champion will walk away victorious.