Rafa Nadal avoided another shock loss against Denis Shapovalov as he triumphed 6-4 6-1 in their third-round match at the Internazionali d'Italia. Shapovalov was ranked 143rd in the world when he defeated Nadal at the Rogers Cup last August, but the Spaniard proved far too good on his favoured surface of Rome as he set up a quarter-final against Fabio Fognini.
Nadal eyeing return to No.1 post
Nadal lost just five points on his serve and made the Canadian, who has risen to 29th in the ATP rankings since their meeting in Montreal, work incredibly hard on his own with a clinical display. Shapovalov showed admirable determination but his frustrations got the better of him in an increasingly one-sided second set, with the 31-year-old remaining on course for an eighth title in Rome that would see him regain world number one.
Nadal immediately outlined his intention to put his opponent under pressure, engineering eight break points in the teenager's opening two service games. The Spaniard sprinted across court and sent an unstoppable forehand pass down the line during a mammoth game three that Shapovalov eventually held after 11 minutes.
Nadal finally got the break and Shapovalov did not get a point against serve until game eight – he only had two when the world number two closed out the first set by forcing the Canadian deep and wide before rushing to the net to close the angles. A break to love gave the 16-time major winner an early advantage in the second and he battled from 0-40 down in game five to add a second, a gap that proved insurmountable for an increasingly frustrated Shapovalov.
Victory was closed out by Nadal when Shapovalov buried a forehand into the net on the second match point he faced.