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Italian Open: Rafael Nadal beats John Isner to reach third round in Rome

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Rafael Nadal maintained his perfect record of never losing back-to-back matches on clay with victory over John Isner at the Italian Open.

The Spaniard, beaten by Carlos Alcaraz in last week’s Madrid Open quarter-finals, returned to his favorite surface with a 6-3 6-1 win over Isner.

The victory put Nadal into the third round in Rome and got his preparations for his pursuit of a record-extending 14th French Open title back on track.

He faces Denis Shapovalov next.

Third seed Nadal, who had received a first-round bye, was given a stern test in the seventh game of the first set against his American opponent.

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But he saved two break points and capitalized on Isner’s disappointment over the missed chances by stringing together a run of five games in a row to go a set and a breakup.

The 10-time champion did not look back, with big-serving Isner managing only one hold during the rest of the match, and Nadal eventually took victory with a huge forehand down the line.

The win put him through to another encounter with Canadian world number 16 Shapovalov, against whom he saved two match points at this event last year.

“I know how dangerous he is,” Nadal, 35, told Amazon Prime when asked about his next opponent. “I need to play well, I need to play better than today.”

Earlier, second seed Alexander Zverev of Germany advanced to the third round with a 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 win over Argentina’s Sebastian Baez.

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Among the other players in action, later on, Wednesday is British number one Cameron Norrie, who faces Croatian 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.

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The Masters 1000 event in Rome finishes on Sunday, a week before the French Open clay-court Grand Slam begins at Roland Garros.