Time goes by at full speed and, suddenly, Roma freezes it for a second and gives a nostalgic nod to yesterday. It happened on May 9, 17 years ago, 2005. Also at the Foro Italico in Rome, where Rafael Nadal awaits a date with Canadian Denis Shapovalov this Thursday (not before 7:00 p.m., Movistar Deportes) after correcting a hesitant start against the giant John Isner in the premiere (6-3 and 6-1, in 1h 17m). That day, wearing a sleeveless shirt, capri pants and flowing hair, the Spaniard beat Argentina’s Guillermo Coria in five sets in the final of the tournament and entered the tournament for the first time. top-5 of the circuit, a place that he has rarely, very rarely, abandoned along that route that was then beginning to take flight.
They are already 800 weeks at the top of the pyramid, a lifetime. That afternoon, Nadal raised the Roman trophy for the first time – which he won 10 more times, the last one last year – and entered a territory that he would leave a decade later, 522 weeks later, on May 11, 2015 From there, another five entries and exits, but almost always installed among the top five of the ranking. A test of reliability and regularity, surpassed only by the Swiss Roger Federer, who holds the record with 860. The one from Basel watches today from the infirmary, while Nadal tries to rediscover that Nadal who is scary on the ground.
“I spoke very clearly since I came back. I’m in a bit of a hurry, because I have to find the best sensations as soon as possible. I need to recover things that I lost due to the injury [fisura en la costilla, mes y medio de ausencia]. Work as much as I can to be ready in a couple of weeks”, he explained after he had gone to polish the drive a while longer after beating Isner; “Of course, Rome is the priority right now, but at the same time, in the medium and long term, I need to move on. The only way to recover the level is to work. today’s game [por ayer] It wasn’t that strong or physically demanding, so I felt like I could keep training a little bit more.”
Nadal, dismounted by Carlos Alcaraz in the rooms of Madrid, the previous week, went from less to more. At 3-3, in the first quarter, Isner wasted two balls of break and, from there, the Spanish straightened up. Now he has a cross with Shapovalov, who in last year’s edition had two opportunities to close the game and then, in Australia, also led him to the limit. “I was very lucky, it was almost a miracle. He had the game in his hand several times… But for me today it’s not about which player I have in front of me, but about trying to improve every day and keep trying; try to reach a higher level every day. That’s what I’m going to do,” he pointed out.
hold number four
Focused on today, on the most immediate now, day by day, Nadal does not forget the episode against Coria in 2005. “It was one of the toughest matches I have played in my life,” he recalled four years ago , when it included the duel between the most special of his career. So, at the age of 19, he beat the Argentine 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6 and 7-6 (6), after 5h 14m face to face. The triumph –17th in a row on clay that season– allowed him to cross the border of top-5 and discover the most privileged stay of the elite.
“I need to trust my body again, to feel comfortable. I need some time”, says Nadal, who this campaign has won three trophies (Melbourne, Australia and Acapulco) and this week faces an important pulse in parallel with the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Spaniard defends number four on the list and must retain it to avoid a potential poisoned crossover in the Roland Garros quarters (against Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev, for example). To achieve this, he must be crowned again, or improve the result obtained by the Athenian, currently fifth in the ATP.
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