Seven months ago, Jannik Sinner twice had chances to accomplish something few tennis players have been capable of: taking a set from Rafael Nadal at the French Open.
The Italian teenager served for the first set at 6-5 in the Roland Garros quarterfinals and was up a break early in the second. He squandered both opportunities and was eliminated in straight sets.
But Sinner, who is still 19, learned a lot on that cool October night and has since surged up the rankings and into the top 20. Sinner cruised through his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday, beating Ugo Humbert 6-2, 6-4, to set up a rematch with Nadal.
“I think at Roland Garros I had the right mentality and tomorrow (or Wednesday, when the match will likely be played) I need to do the same thing,” Sinner said. “I also know I have more weapons, that I’ve improved.”
Also at the Foro Italico, Taylor Fritz beat Daniel Evans 6-3, 6-2 to set up a meeting with Djokovic, who claimed his fifth Rome title when the 2020 edition of the tournament was held in September.
Swiatek moves up
In the women’s section, French Open champion Iga Swiatek advanced when Alison Riske retired with a left foot injury while trailing.
Important results: First round: Men: Taylor Fritz bt Dan Evans 6-3, 6-2; Marton Fucsovics bt Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0, 6-2; Federico Delbonis bt Karen Khachanov 3-6, 6-4, 6-0; Aslan Karatsev bt Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6(2), 6-4; Kei Nishikori bt Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4; Stefano Travaglia bt Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-3; Jannik Sinner bt Ugo Humbert 6-2, 6-4; David Goffin bt Salvatore Caruso 6-4, 6-1; Pablo Carreno-Busta bt Laslo Djere 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Women: Coco Gauff bt Yulia Putintseva 7-5, 4-6, 6-4; Iga Swiatek bt Alison Riske 5-4, retd.; Amanda Anisimova bt Wang Qiang 7-5, 6-3; Anastasija Sevastova bt Jil Teichmann 3-6, 6-1, 6-3; Petra Kvitova bt Magda Linette 1-6, 6-0, 6-2; Jennifer Brady bt Zhang Shuai 6-1, 6-4; Ekaterina Alexandrova bt Marta Kostyuk 6-3, 6-1.