With long time girlfriend Xisca Perello in the stands supporting her man, Rafa broke Cilic early for a 2-0 lead in a match that he should not have been playing. Apparently Uncle Toni told L’Equipe that he had recommended his nephew withdraw from Rome due to his fever prior to playing his third round match against Feliciano Lopez. His stubborn charge seems intent on defending his number one ranking and beating Djokovic for some confidence ahead of Roland Garros, hopefully not at the cost of hit longer term fitness for the next two months.
Rafa requested an ice towel to keep his face cool in the hot Roman sunshine, occasionally dabbing it on his knees. Cilic, as often is the case, was held back by his movement and quickly found himself trailing 0-4 against the unwell King of Clay. The at times gusty conditions didn’t help the lanky Croat stop Rafa from forcing him to serve to stay alive in the set at 5-0 and try and avoid being handed a bagel.
The world number one pushed him around the court exposing his movement deficiencies and took the first set 6-1 in 38 minutes.
While Marin showed some great touch at the net he struggled a bit with his forehand, Rafa ran around his backhand to use his forehand as a weapon, more often than not dominating his opponent. It was a far cry from his second round match against Lorenzi where he struggles to find his forehand.
At 3-3 Nadal had triple break point which he converted easily with another forehand error from his opponent. A missed easy overhead (seemingly the theme of Rome) at 5-3 gave Nadal his first match point, he converted his second to take the match and save his number one ranking for another week. The Spaniard is now two weeks shy of holding the number one spot for a full 12 months.
Despite concerns for his health ahead of Roland Garros Nadal clearly intends to plow on “Why wouldn’t I be OK for Roland Garros? In 2009 I wasn’t OK. My knee was destroyed. I’m worried about tomorrow not in one week and a half’s time.”
Nadal will now face the winner of Richard Gasquet V Tomas Berdych.