Fresh off a disappointing result in Madrid, seven-time Italian Open champion Rafael Nadal got off to a winning start in Rome on Wednesday when he overcame a potentially tricky opening round opponent. Nadal was strong on the baseline, defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the third round. The world number five has a difficult draw in Rome but made his opener look fairly easy.
Late break gives Nadal opening set
Both men came out firing on serve, giving their opponent very few opportunities. Kohlschreiber did well to hang with Nadal in the baseline exchanges, sometimes even outshining the Spaniard with some wicked winners that painted the lines. Still, it did not help him reach break point on Nadal’s serve.
Finally, at 3-4, it was Nadal who had the first opportunity to break. The world number five raced ahead 0-40 and, after Kohlschreiber saved the first break point with a winner that barely caught the baseline, Nadal won a big rally by running the German ragged before drawing an error to grab a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve out the set. But Kohlschreiber did not go away quietly, hitting a massive forehand winner to bring up a break point of his own. But he dumped a forehand into the net to let it slip away and Nadal won the next two points to seal the opening set.
Nadal battles to victory
Nadal carried the momentum over into the second set, immediately grabbing a double break point opportunity in the opening game, but some great serving from Kohlschreiber ended the threat. A few games later, the German had a half chance on the fifth seed’s serve, racing ahead 0-30, but Nadal quickly equalised and went on to hold. He returned the favour in the following game, grabbing a 0-30 lead and succeeded in turning the lead into two break points at 15-40. The pair engaged in a titanic rally on the first and Nadal finished with a backhand winner up the line for a 3-2 lead.
Kohlschreiber kept fighting and brought up a break point in the following game with an impressive backhand winner down the line, and this time, he converted with a huge forehand winner off the return. The following game was an epic, with the pair battling through multiple deuces before Nadal finally broke with a backhand winner. Kohlschreiber served to stay in the match at 5-3 and led 0-40, but the German proceeded to implode, losing five straight points to give Nadal the match.
By the numbers
Nadal was fairly dominant statistically in this match. He won 72 percent of his first serve points and 70 percent of his second serve points. Kohlschreiber was solid on his first serve, winning 65 percent of those points, but struggled mightily on his second serve, being limited to 36 percent. Nadal led in winners 21 to 19, while also hitting fewer errors, 14 to 22. All in all, the Spaniard broke four times out of eight opportunities, while Kohlschreiber only had two chances, converting one.
Nadal will face a tough test in the third round when he takes on Nick Kyrgios. The Aussie young gun won their lone previous meeting.