Nadal into Italian Open semis


May 19, 2018
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Italy's Fabio Fognini during a quarter final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, yesterday. Nadal won 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

ROME, Italy (AP):

Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal overcame a poor first set and a partisan crowd to beat Fabio Fognini 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 and reach the Italian Open semi- finals yesterday.

Fans at the Foro Italico sports complex were decidedly behind Fognini, Italy's top player, and Nadal was under pressure when Fognini won five straight games to cancel out a 4-1 deficit and win the opening set.

"He played aggressive, a great level of tennis, creating a lot of winners and taking balls earlier," Nadal said. "I felt the pressure a little bit and played a couple of bad games."

But Fognini could not keep up with Nadal's consistency and heavy topspin on the red clay court and eventually was physically worn down.

"I tried to play more with my forehand, and when I play aggressive with my forehand, the backhand becomes better," Nadal said. "It's important to be able to change the tactics of the match."

Fognini had tape applied under his left knee while trailing 3-2 in the third set due to a physical problem that has bothered him for weeks.

"The first set lasted more than an hour," Fognini said. "It's him that causes the problem."

Nadal can replace Roger Federer at number one if he lifts the Rome trophy for the first time since 2013. Federer is sitting out the clay season to prepare for Wimbledon, where he will bid for a record-extending 21st Grand Slam title.

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