Nadal off to winning start in 10th Italian Open title bid

Rafael Nadal opened his attempt to win a 10th Italian Open title on Wednesday with a straight-sets victory over teenager Jannik Sinner to advance to the third round.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner won through 7-5, 6-4 in two hours 10-minutes to bring his record to 16-1 in his opening matches in the Foro Italico.

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His 18th-ranked Italian opponent had dug deep to try and pull off an upset, saving six set points in the first set in which he had been twice a break-up.

Sinner was again a breakup in the second before Nadal powered back for 4-4 seeing off the 19-year-old on his fourth match point.

“After Madrid, it was important to start with a positive feeling,” said Nadal, who was beaten in the last eight at both previous Masters events, in Monte Carlo and Madrid.

“Today was a tough match. I think I did a lot of things well. I made mistakes too but combined these with positive things too.”

Nadal, 34, next plays Canadian Denis Shapovalov, the 13th seed, for a place in the quarter-final.

Top seed Novak Djokovic and second seed Nadal have accounted for 14 of the past 16 titles at Foro Italico.

“It’s a lesson that’s tough to accept,” said Sinner, who also lost to Nadal in the quarter-final Roland Garros last year.

The teenager had been hoping to benefit from the presence of the home crowd in later rounds with a 25 percent capacity allowed from Thursday.

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