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ROME (Reuters) - Nine-times champion Rafa Nadal showed little signs of rust when he played his first match in 200 days as he beat fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1 6-1 in the Italian Open in Rome on Wednesday.

© Reuters/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI ATP Masters 1000 - Italian Open

Nadal, who received a bye into the second round, has not played a tournament since winning his 85th singles title in Acapulco, having skipped the Western & Southern Open and the U.S. Open in New York due to COVID-19 concerns.

The match was also Nadal's first on clay in 465 days after his French Open triumph last year and the 34-year-old Spaniard sent an ominous message to the field as he dominated the U.S. Open semi-finalist from start at an empty Foro Italico.

© Reuters/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI ATP Masters 1000 - Italian Open

"It's good to be back on the Tour but obviously the feeling is not the best playing without crowds," Nadal said. "At least there's one positive thing, the sport is back.

Nadal broke in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead and did not look back, winning the last 10 points in the opening set to put down a marker for Carreno Busta who struggled with the pace of the ball on clay after two hardcourt tournaments.

© Reuters/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI ATP Masters 1000 - Italian Open

The second set was more of the same as a visibly jumpy Nadal could not wait to get going between games and the world number two wrapped up the match in 73 minutes with 20 winners while Carreno Busta made 28 unforced errors.

"I played a good match, maybe he was a little bit tired from New York (where) he played an amazing tournament," Nadal added. "It's a perfect start for me, I played solid, some good shots with the forehand and backhand."

Italian wildcard Jannik Sinner pulled off a stunning upset in the second round when he beat third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-1 6-7(9) 6-2 to take revenge on the Greek who beat him in straight sets at the same stage last year.

Sinner, 19, led 6-1 5-2 before Tsitsipas mounted a comeback and saved match points in the tiebreak, but Sinner clinched the decider as Tsitsipas racked up 58 unforced errors in the contest.

Sinner will next face Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who eased past Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1 6-0.

Earlier, top seed Novak Djokovic returned to winning ways after his U.S. Open default, beating Italian wildcard Salvatore Caruso 6-3 6-2.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)


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We Play For Them: Novak Djokovic Welcomes Hosting Fans at Italian Open 2020

World No.1 Novak Djokovic has expressed his delight at the news that fans will be allowed to attend the semis and finals of the Italian Open 2020. The 17-time Grand Slam winner admitted that he misses spectators in the stadium. He talked about the importance of fans and said that it is better to have 1000 people than no people at all.

While the Serbian is overjoyed with the news, he isn’t sure if it is indeed true.

“I just received the information right now. I don’t know if it’s official or not,” said the 33-year-old.

The comments of Novak Djokovic on 1,000 spectators being allowed into the Foro Italico for semifnals and finals. #IBI20 pic.twitter.com/frJa1xPLAA

— Tennis Majors (@Tennis_Majors) September 18, 2020

“I hope that it’s true if we are going to have 1000 people, it’s better than having no people. We all miss fans and part of our professional careers in sport is playing in front of them and for them as well. So, I am really glad that it is going to happen. I mean if it’s official,” added the World No.1

It is evident that Djokovic firmly believes that players play for the fans. It is their motivation and encouragement that adds the extra charm in their performances.

Novak Djokovic in action at Italian Open 2020. via REUTERS/Riccardo Antimiani ‘Hope we stay at the Centre court’- Novak Djokovic

Djokovic welcomes having fans: We play for them, better 1.000 than nothing.

Adds that he hopes that they will play on Centre court, not Pietrangeli, since “the quality of clay is much better”. #IBI20

— Saša Ozmo (@ozmo_sasa) September 18, 2020

“Obviously, I am hoping that we stay at the Centre court. I also heard that they are considering to use Pietrangeli or NextGen courts for semi-finals and finals,” said a doubtful Djokovic.

“I hope that is not the case because, the quality of the clay and the quality of the court on the Centre court, in my opinion, is much better than the other court. Hopefully, we stay at the Centre.”

He clearly wants to stick with the Centre court at the semis and the finals. Also, he surely thinks that allowing fans will not just help him but will be beneficial to boost the morale of all the players.

‘We both struggled physically in the first set’- Djokovic on his match against Krajinovic

Djokovic had defeated fellow countryman Filip Krajinović in straight sets in the third round of the Italian Open 2020. “We both struggled physically in the first set, there were many long rallies,” said Djokovic in the post-match presentation.

Novak: Definitely one of the longest sets I’ve ever played. We went toe to toe, taking that set allowed me to play with more confidence. We both struggled physically in the first set, lot of long rallies. #IBI20

— Saša Ozmo (@ozmo_sasa) September 18, 2020

“It was definitely one of the longest sets I’ve ever played. We went toe to toe,” said Djokovic, about the first set that had ended with a score of 7(9)-6(7).

Novak Djokovic is due to face German player Dominik Koepfer in the quarters of the tournament. After getting eliminated from the US Open 2020 in an unfortunate manner, the World No.1 will look to reassert his dominance by winning the Italian Open.

Also Read: Simona Halep reacts on Djokovic’s disqualification at US Open 2020

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