Rome – 2R

Probably vast majority of spectators expected that 29-year-old qualifier Paolo Lorenzi (only six ATP wins in career) would win four games at a push against Rafael Nadal. It’s always tough to say whether the Italian was playing match of his life or Nadal was explicitly below his standard form, anyway through set and a half Lorenzi went toe-to-toe with the best player in the world! Nadal led *5:3 in the 1st set tie-break when played a sloppy forehand, three points later the Spaniard lost the first set point despite playing two overheads! Lorenzi improved from 1:3 to 4:3* in the 2nd set, was just two games away from the biggest win of his life but it was a mountain too high to overcome for his psychical and mental abilities – Nadal won the next nine games and the match 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-0 in 2 hours 26 minutes.
Also nine games in a row won Novak Djokovic in his encounter with another qualifier – Lukasz Kubot [141]. The Pole had to play his best tennis at the net to break the streak of losing games to avoid a humiliating “double bagel”. Djokovic scored a 6-0, 6-3 win tying with four great players (Connors, Borg, Muster and Federer) who won 35 consecutive matches. If Djokovic wins another two matches, he will jump to the 6th place of the greatest winning streaks in the Open era.
The rivalry between Nadal and Djokovic is amazingly interesting this week, because the Serb for the first time in career might advance at the top of the ATP ranking – he needs to win the tournament, counting on Nadal’s defeat before the semifinals. The two best players in the world said after their opening matches:
In general it was bad. I felt slow, I felt my forehand was short all the time. He played smart, too-good serves, good volleys. I played bad. And losing the final makes everything more difficult – you’re more tired and a little more sad. But I’m in the third round and that’s very positive for me.”
It is a great way to start. It is always great to have a straight set win and spend less time on the courts and save some energy for coming rounds.” – adding about his next opponent with whom played the final in Rome a couple years ago (Wawrinka) – “He likes this court and these conditions. It’s going to be a tough match.”
Robin Soderling miraculously avoided a straight set loss to Fernando Verdasco. These two players in  this year’s tournaments could meet at the earliest in the quarterfinals or semifinals, now they were gathered in the same section of the draw already in the second round because Verdasco lost many points in April and has slipped from No. 8 to No. 17. The Spaniard led 5:4 (40-0) on serve in the 2nd set having three consecutive match points. Soderling saved the first two with risky (especially the first one) powerful forehands, then Verdasco served two double faults in a row and the match turned around! Soderling won 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 saving a couple break points at 3:3 in the decider. Soderling’s first tournament with Fredrik Rosengren as a coach (the Swede replaced Claudio Pistotlesi, who had been working with ‘Toad’ the first four months of the season).

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