Rafael Nadal on Wednesday eased into the last 16 of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia with a straightforward 6-3, 6-1 win over John Isner, while Iga Swiatek is on course for a fifth straight WTA triumph, after seeing off Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3, 6-0.
Third seed Nadal made short work of Isner as he bids for an 11th title in Rome, with the King of Clay seeing off his American opponent in one hour, 17 minutes under blazing sunshine at the Foro Italico.
A quarter-final loser to fellow countryman Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid, Nadal could profit from the in-form teenager’s absence in the Italian capital to win the last big clay event before the French Open later this month.
The 35-year-old had been out for six weeks with a rib injury before returning in the Spanish capital last week, but Isner put up little resistance against the 21-time Grand Slam winner.
“I need to build again the things after a tough stop and that’s what I’m trying, just to stay with the right attitude and let’s see if I’m able to make that happen,” Nadal said courtside.
The match swung in Nadal’s favor in game eight, when Nadal broke veteran world No. 27 Isner before serving out to take the first set.
From there Nadal cruised to victory, dropping just 14 points on his way to setting up a third-round clash with Denis Shapovalov.
Nadal later told reporters that Swiatek was doing “amazing things,” and it was difficult to argue after she set up a third-round match with Victoria Azarenka after wiping the floor with Ruse.
The 20-year-old Swiatek is in red-hot form after winning her last four tournaments and would be eyeing a second title at Roland Garros after winning there as a teenager in 2020.
Swiatek dropped just nine points in a second-set demolition of Ruse, which highlighted the gulf between the two players.
Elsewhere, four-time major winner Naomi Osaka is breaking away from IMG to launch her own sports agency with longtime agent Stuart Duguid.
Duguid and Osaka began discussing the venture at the Tokyo Olympics last year, Duguid said in an e-mail, adding that the firm, called Evolve, would operate as a “small boutique and bespoke agency.”
“We were discussing the business models of some of her mentors like Kobe [Bryant] and Lebron [James]. We thought — why has no transcendent female athlete done that yet,” he said.
“It’s athlete driven and focused on big picture brand building, rather than quick checks with a commission attached,” he said.
Duguid said that he could not share much about the identities of the initial clients, but added that “it would be only athletes who transcend their sports; or those with the potential to do so.”
Former world No. 1 Osaka, the first player for Japan to win a Grand Slam, has emerged as a leading advocate for athlete mental health and wellbeing since she pulled out of the French Open a year ago and disclosed that she had had depression for years.
On Wednesday, she posted on Twitter a compilation of clips from her earlier playing days. In one, she prophetically discussed what she might be doing were she not a tennis player.
“I just like sports, so maybe [I would be] like an agent in the end,” she said.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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