Nadal squeezes past qualifier Bergs in Rome opener

motorsport09 May 2024 14:47| © AFP
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Rafael Nadal © Gallo Images

Rafael Nadal said that he can no longer afford to fear injury after battling into the second round of the Rome Open on Thursday, with Roland Garros looming on the horizon.

Clay court icon Nadal bounced back from a set down to beat qualifier Zizou Bergs 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Italian capital with a gritty performance which will need to be improved upon when the Spaniard faces his next opponent, world No 9 Hubert Hurkacz.

Should he progress further Nadal also has last year's winner, world No 4 Daniil Medvedev, and the beaten finalist Holger Rune on his side of the draw.

The 37-year-old took nearly three hours to see off Belgian Bergs as he continued his comeback and bid to play at Roland Garros, most likely for the last time.

Nadal has in recent times been a shadow of the player who has won 22 Grand Slams in a storied career which has also brought a record 10 titles in Rome, being battered by injuries and dropping down to 305 in the world rankings after missing almost all of last year.

"I have Roland Garros in just two weeks and a half... I need to prove myself if I am able to push my body to the limit, I need to push to feel myself ready for what's coming," Nadal told reporters.

"I am not talking only about Roland Garros. I am talking about the next match. I need to lose this fear. Matches like today help.

"Some moments I was moving faster. Some moments not. I need to get used to that, to take that risk... I feel more ready to try it than before."


Nadal has said that he will only play at the French Open, where he has won 14 times, if he feels competitive and although he showed glimpses of his old self against 108th-ranked Bergs he struggled on his serve and looked a long way from Grand Slam standard.

Outsider Bergs, 24, is an eight-time title winner on the Challenger tour and had in previous tournaments taken sets off high-profile players like Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rune.

The hard-hitting Belgian pushed his big-name rival all the way, briefly looking like he might win the biggest match of his career to date before Nadal fought back to take victory.