ROME - Rafael Nadal extended his perfect Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-final record to 12-0 on Saturday with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Reilly Opelka.
The nine-time champion claimed a single break in each set to move one win away from a record-equalling 36th ATP Masters 1000 title. Nadal is now also within touching distance of winning a single tour-level event on 10 or more occasions for the fourth time. The Spaniard already owns 13 Roland Garros crowns, 12 Barcelona trophies and 11 Monte-Carlo titles.
After saving two match points against Denis Shapovalov in the third round and nine of the 10 break points he faced against Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals, Nadal continued to find his best tennis in critical moments against Opelka. The second seed saved four break points at 2-1 in the first set and broke serve in two of the three games where he earned a break point to advance to the championship match.
“I did the thing that I had to do today,” Nadal said in his post-match interview. “It is not an easy, beautiful match to play and, [against] a player like Reilly, [you aren’t going to] have rhythm. You know you are going to have just a few options on your return and you know he can play very aggressive from the baseline. That is what happened at the beginning of the match. He had some options [for the] break and it was super important for me to save those moments.”
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Opelka had not dropped serve en route to the semi-finals, having saved all six break points he had faced across his opening four matches. The American’s low first-serve percentage (52%) gave Nadal a chance to extend rallies and the Mallorcan used his opportunities well to reach a record-equalling 52nd Masters 1000 final.
Nadal’s semi-final victory marked a milestone moment in the 35-time Masters 1000 champion’s career. Nadal became the seventh man in the Open Era to contest 500 tour-level encounters on clay (458-42). The 34-year-old’s 91.6 per cent success rate, 61 titles, 81-match winning streak (2005-‘07) and 50-set winning streak (2017-‘18) are all Open Era clay-court records