Nadal to make Rome return against qualifier

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Rafael Nadal was drawn on Monday with a qualifier in the first round of the Italian Open as the 22-time Grand Slam winner continues his comeback from injury on clay in Rome.

Should Nadal get through to the second round in the Italian capital, where he has won the title a record 10 times, he could face world number nine Hubert Hurkacz.

Also on Nadal’s side of the draw are last year’s winner, world number four Daniil Medvedev, and the beaten finalist Holger Rune.

The 37-year-old last won in Rome in 2021 and dropped out last year with injury ahead of the tournament.

Since making his comeback in April after three months on the sidelines, Nadal, who sits at 305 in the men’s ATP tour rankings after hardly playing in 2023, has been knocked out in the second round in Barcelona and reached the last 16 in Madrid.

This season is expected to be Nadal’s last, even though he has not decided exactly when he will be hanging up his racquet.

Numerous physical issues have hampered him over the past two years and he has said that he will only compete at Roland Garros later this month if he feels competitive.

Nadal’s old rival Novak Djokovic will face either a qualifier or Russian Roman Safiullin in the second round as he guns for a seventh title in Rome with key rivals sidelined.

Both home hope Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz, ranked two and three in the world respectively, have been forced to withdraw from the tournament with injury.

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