A rejuvenated and healthy Rafa Nadal continues to remind fans of his former self on the clay. In Rome Nadal beat the athletic Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals. Nadal is 19-3 on the clay this year. He lost to Andy Murray in the semifinals of the Madrid Open last week, but has played a number of strong matches where his physical limitations have been tested — and he’s passed the test. Nadal didn’t just roar back against Kyrgios; he’s roared back into the title contender category. Nadal will play the winner of the Djokovic-Belluci match next in Rome.
The early potential meeting with Djokovic in the quarters is the result of Nadal entering Rome as the No. 5 seed. A Djokovic match win will be tough for Nadal to muster, but even with a loss in the next round, Nadal should enter the French Open seeded higher than fifth — given his history at Roland Garros as a 9-time champion and his recent play. That means a Djokovic match would be further down the line. The French Open begins May 22.