Rafael Nadal unsure over French Open after heavy defeat to Hurkacz in Rome

Rafael Nadal unsure over French Open after heavy defeat to Hurkacz in Rome

Rafael Nadal has admitted he is still unsure whether he will play in the French Open later this month, after he was eliminated from the Italian Open in straight sets by Hubert Hurkacz on Saturday.

The 22-time grand slam winner brought his usual commitment and desire but was unable to compete physically against his opponent, going down 6-1, 6-3. Nadal, still regaining fitness after hip surgery, appeared slow at times and lacked the clinical edge to finish off points in this third-round encounter.

“You can see today on the court how difficult is,” Nadal told reporters afterwards. “Probably one [option] is to say, ‘Okay, I’m not ready, I’m not playing well’. Then it’s the moment to take a decision in terms of not playing Roland Garros. Another is accept how I am today and work to try to be in a different way in two weeks.”

“The decision, as you can imagine, is not clear in my mind today,” the 14-time French Open champion added. “If I have to say what’s my feeling and if my mind is closer one way or the other way, I’m going to say: ‘be in Roland Garros and try my best’. Physically, I have some issues, but not probably yet enough to say not playing in the most important event of my tennis career.”

Twice in the first set, Nadal missed drop shot attempts to hand Hurkacz breaks of serve as the Pole raced to a 6-1 success. Early in the second set, Nadal lacked power on a backhand volley, allowing Hurkacz to reply with a forehand up the line that clipped the net and landed in for another break, which proved enough for the world No 9.

“I am proud of myself because playing Rafa is special,” said Hurkacz after prevailing in his first match against Nadal. “It is just different, especially on clay, the surface he has dominated for the past 20 years. No one will ever have a record like him on this surface, so he is bigger than the sport.”

Hurkacz will next face the No 25 seed, Tomás Etcheverry, who eliminated Thiago Seyboth Wild 6-3, 7-5. Nicolas Jarry saved seven set points in the second set to overcome the home hopeful Matteo Arnaldi 6-2, 7-6 (6). The Serbian qualifier Hamad Medjedovic beat 30th-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic said he was fine after being hit on the head by a falling water bottle while signing autographs after his opening win over Corentin Moutet on Friday. The world No 1 returned to the Foro Italico for practice on Saturday – but wore a bicycle helmet while talking to fans.

Iga Swiatek plays a shot against Yulia PutintsevaView image in fullscreen

Iga Swiatek described Nadal as her idol after she defeated Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-4 for her eighth consecutive win. The world No 1 trailed 4-1 in the second set but saved four break points to make it 4-2 and then reeled off five straight games to seal victory.

“I needed to get my focus together,” Swiatek said. “I know that I can play good tennis because I did it in the first set. So I just wanted to come back to being solid and really work for the points … she [Putintseva] really changes the rhythm, so it’s not easy to play against her.”

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“He’s a huge inspiration,” Swiatek said of Nadal. “He’s basically the only idol I ever had in my life. So it’s great that he’s back to play some tennis.” Having won the Madrid Open last week, the Pole is aiming to be the first to win the women’s “dirt double” since Serena Williams in 2013.

Angelique Kerber will be Swiatek’s last-16 opponent after the German defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 7-6 (4), while Naomi Osaka continued her comeback with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-3 win over the No 10 seed, Daria Kasatkina.

Elsewhere in the women’s draw, Paula Badosa rallied past Diana Shnaider 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round at a WTA 1000 event for the first time since her quarter-final appearance in Rome last year.