Rafa re­sponds to hum­bling as his con­queror falls early

Sport360 - - Italian Open - By Staff Re­porter @Sport360 edi­to­rial@sport360.com

For­mer winners Rafael Nadal and No­vak Djokovic pow­ered into the third round of the Ital­ian Open in Rome on Wed­nes­day but Aus­trian Do­minic Thiem fell at the first hur­dle.

Sixth seed Thiem crashed out just a week af­ter inflicting a first clay­court de­feat on Nadal in over a year in Madrid which cost the Spa­niard the world num­ber one rank­ing.

The 24-year-old de­stroyed his in fury as he suf­fered his first de­feat to Ital­ian Fabio Fognini in three meet­ings, sink­ing 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 at the Foro Ital­ico.

Nadal later eased through 6-1, 6-0 against Bos­nian Damir Dzumhur as he tar­gets an eighth Rome ti­tle and first since 2013.

“Af­ter a loss in Madrid, it’s im­por­tant to come back strong. And that’s what I did to­day,” said Nadal, who was the ben­e­fi­ciary of a first-round bye.

The 31-year-old, who claimed the 11th ti­tles of his ca­reer at both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, took the first set in 34 min­utes, coast­ing to vic­tory in just an hour.

The 16-time Grand Slam win­ner next takes on ei­ther Cana­dian De­nis Shapo­valov, 19, or Robin Haase of the Nether­lands.

“To­day was a pos­i­tive day. I don’t know how many mis­takes I did, but not much,” said Nadal.

Djokovic, a four-time win­ner, is on the comeback trail three months af­ter el­bow surgery and eased past Geor­gia’s Nikoloz Basi­lashvili 6-4, 6-2.

The Ser­bia will next play Spa­niard Al­bert Ramos Vi­no­las who needed three sets to get past Amer­i­can eighth seed John Is­ner 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5).

Fognini, ranked 21, next plays Ger­many’s Pe­ter Go­jowczyk be­fore a pos­si­ble quar­ter-fi­nal show­down with top seed Nadal.

“If you com­pare it to Madrid there were a lot of close matches I could have lost there too. I did have chances,” said Thiem.

Bul­gar­ian third seed Grigor Dim­itrov also suf­fered an early exit, go­ing out to Ja­pan’s Kei Nishikori af­ter a marathon 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-4 bat­tle.

Back in form: Rafael Nadal.

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