Ruthless Nadal advances, Thiem stung by Fognini


Nadal improved to 15-1 this season - and 404-36 in his career - on clay with a 6-1, 6-0 rout of 31st-ranked Damir Dzumhur on Wednesday.

Former winners Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic powered into the third round of the Italian Open in Rome on Wednesday but Austrian Dominic Thiem fell at the first hurdle.

The Serb's forehand was particularly loose, and he had to fend off a pair of break points before he was able to grab a break of his own in the first set.

Without a doubt, Nadal played one of his best matches ever to begin his Rome challenge. "It was important, after a loss in Madrid, to come back strong. He was pumped today and playing at home and coming off a good win over (Gael) Monfils", said Thiem.

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"We're finally connecting and I think that's the most attractive thing", Fognini said of the crowd, which whistled him off the court following an erratic performance a few years ago. And I knew she knew I couldn't hit a backhand, so we were just having backhand rallies. I also had control, more or less, of a high percentage of the points. "It was one of those helpless feeling", conceded Osaka who could be heard saying "I want to cry" courtside.

World No 5 Karolina Pliskova was eliminated by Maria Sakkari in controversial circumstances, prompting the Czech to react by smashing her racket against the umpire's chair at the end of the match.

Djokovic, a four-time victor of the Italian Open, also had little trouble in his second round match, defeating Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 18 minutes.

However, before they can look ahead to a blockbuster encounter, Nadal will first have to get past Dutchman Robin Haase/Canadian Denis Shapovalov, while Djokovic next faces Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who defeated American John Isner yesterday.

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Bulgarian third seed Grigor Dimitrov also suffered an early exit, going out to Japan's Kei Nishikori after a marathon 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-4 battle. "If you compare it to Madrid there were a lot of close matches I could have lost there too".

Nishikori, who snapped a three-match losing streak, will meet Philipp Kohlschreiber for a place in the quarterfinals.

At night the Italian player Matteo Berrettini will try to make a shocking upset over Alexander Zverev, who has been winning the last nine matches played. Nishikori, now ranked No 24 as he continues his return from injury, was down breaks in both the second and third sets before fighting back to claim a hard-fought victory.

Tennis player Karolina Pliskova takes it out on umpire's chair
Karolina Pliskova is now the world number six in the women's singles rankings, and topped the pile as recently as July 2017. The 20-year-old Osaka failed to convert any of her six break points before conceding the match in just under an hour.