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Novak Djokovic must continue to hold the fort at the Italian Open following Rafael Nadal’s third-round loss. The pair share an incredible 17-year record in Rome, with at least one of them reaching the final of every Italian Open held since 2005. The Spaniard crashed out on Thursday while suffering with an injury against Denis Shapovalov, leaving the world No 1 under pressure to continue their remarkable streak.
Nadal lost a one-set lead as he struggled with his chronic injury in a 1-6 7-5 6-3 defeat to the world No 16 on Thursday. It means the 10-time champion in Rome won’t be able to continue his shared streak with Djokovic, with one or both men reaching at least the final every year since 2005.
The five-time former champion at the Italian Open is now under pressure to keep up their incredible record by making the final, as he faces Felix Auger-Aliassime in Friday’s quarter-final with Casper Ruud awaiting in the semis. It will be a first career meeting between the Serb and the world No 9, and Djokovic also has extra pressure to win their first clash.
The 20-time Major champion will lose his world No 1 ranking to Daniil Medvedev if he doesn’t reach the semi-final, which would also cost him the top-seeded position at the upcoming French Open. Meanwhile, Auger-Aliassime is playing to secure himself a top-eight seeding at the clay-court Grand Slam.
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And Nadal’s loss has also hindered his seeding position at the French Open, as he will now be the fifth seed which could see him face Djokovic as early as the quarter-finals. Both Djokovic and Nadal reached the final in Rome last year, with the Spaniard going on to defeat his long-time rival, but Djokovic got revenge weeks later in the French Open semi-final.
The world No 4 still maintained that the clay-court Major, where he is a 13-time champion, remained his goal despite the injury scare in Rome. “It’s still the goal. [It’s] in a week and a couple of days and I’m gonna keep dreaming about that goal,” he said after losing to Shapovalov.
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While Djokovic looks to keep his and Nadal’s shared streak alive, the Spaniard has also set a record he’ll want to forget with his loss in the third-round. He will be going into the French Open without at least one clay-court Masters 1000 final under his belt for the first time in his lengthy career.
But he will be doing all he can to give himself the best chance at his most successful tournament, as he will be bringing a doctor with him to Paris to help manage his chronic foot injury.
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