Rafael Nadal aims to continue his triumphant return to action as he faces Dusan Lajovic in the last 16 of…
Rafael Nadal aims to continue his triumphant return to action as he faces Dusan Lajovic in the last 16 of the Rome Masters on Friday.
Rafael Nadal vs Dusan Lajovic | ATP Rome Masters R16 | 18/9/2020, 6pm BSTNadal -7.5 games 13/10 Bet Now! New Customers only. 18+. T&C’s Apply. begambleaware.org.
Nadal vs Lajovic is live from Rome on Friday 18 September, 7pm local/6pm BST
Despite a 200-day absence from competition, Rafael Nadal picked up where he left off before the shutdown when he returned to action in Rome on Wednesday, beating US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1.
Next up for the nine-time champion at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia is last year’s surprise Monte-Carlo Masters finalist Dusan Lajovic, who has never taken a set from Nadal.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
How to watch Nadal vs Lajovic live
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Nadal vs Lajovic: Head-to-head
Rafael Nadal leads the head-to-head with Dusan Lajovic 2-0, and 6-0 in sets. They played on clay at the French Open in 2014 and at the US Open in 2017.
Nadal has won five of the six sets they played by either a 6-2 or 6-1 scoreline.
Nadal vs Lajovic: Preview
Playing for the first time since winning his 85th career title in Acapulco in February, Nadal took just 74 minutes and dropped only two games against an opponent who had just reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam.
To be fair, Carreno Busta was clearly exhausted from that run, which ended last Friday with the second of lengthy back-to-back five-setters; and he has never been a dangerous opponent for Nadal, having only won one set in their five previous encounters.
Nevertheless, it was a fairly ominous statement from Nadal ahead of the French Open, reminding us that no matter how little match-practice he’s had in the preceding months, he remains so formidable on this particular surface that he can render his opponent’s form (and pretty much their presence on the other side of the net) irrelevant.
Nadal faced one break point in the match, which he saved, and never really looked under much strain. He was seeded to meet Milos Raonic in the third round, but instead the man trying to stop him from making the quarterfinals in Rome for the fifteenth time will be Dusan Lajovic.
Serbia’s Lajovic is best known for a surprise run to the final of the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2019, a tournament which saw Nadal somewhat shockingly lose in the semifinals to Fabio Fognini, who beat Lajovic in the final. But there was nothing fluke-y about Lajovic’s run, which saw him beat David Goffin, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev – all absolutely excellent clay-courters – to reach the final. Lajovic also beat Fognini at the French Open the same summer, and gave Alexander Zverev some serious trouble over five sets in the last 16; he was also a Madrid Masters quarterfinalist in 2018, and has beaten Juan Martin del Potro there.
Lajovic scored wins over Karen Khachanov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the course of Serbia’s run to the ATP Cup title in January and made the third round of the Australian Open, but came into Rome on a three-match post-shutdown losing streak, having gone out to Carreno Busta, Egor Gerasimov and Yannick Hanfmann in ‘Cincinnati’, New York and Kitzbuhel respectively (to be fair, Hanfmann would make the final). He had a good win over qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-4, 6-4, and beating Raonic is always impressive, although Raonic served more double faults than aces – never a good sign for the big Canadian.
Can Lajovic push Nadal? Well, he never has before. Five of the six sets they’ve played, including all three on clay, have been won 6-1 or 6-2 by Nadal. Lajovic is a better player than he used to be, so I would expect him to get a couple more games, but a dominant one-sided win by Nadal is the order of the day.