Nadal stands firm after Lorenzi wobble

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The Independent Online

When Paolo Lorenzi, the world No 148, led Rafael Nadal 7-6, 4-3 here at the Rome Masters yesterday it seemed that the forecast of a huge earthquake in the Italian capital might come true after all. Less than an hour later, however, the game's greatest clay-court player was still standing – like the rest of the city – after winning his second-round match 6-7, 6-4, 6-0.

A prediction by the self-proclaimed scientist Raffaele Bendandi, who died 32 years ago, that Rome would be destroyed yesterday by a massive earthquake led to 18 per cent of the Eternal City's workforce reportedly failing to turn up for work. Many seemed to head instead for the Foro Italico on a gloriously sunny day to watch Lorenzi, a 29-year-old from Siena, take on the world No 1.

For a set and a half Nadal was a shadow of the man who had won 37 clay-court matches in succession until his defeat by Novak Djokovic in the Madrid Masters final on Sunday. The 24-year-old Spaniard, spraying his forehand to all corners and missing routine smashes, made 21 unforced errors in the first set, which Lorenzi won on a tie-break after 64 minutes.

Having retrieved an early break, Lorenzi went within seven points of winning before Nadal pulled himself together, winning nine games in succession to take the match. "I played very badly," Nadal said afterwards.

Djokovic coasted to a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Lukasz Kubot. Andy Murray will face Potito Starace in today's third round. In the quarter-finals the winner will meet either Juan Ignacio Chela or Florian Mayer, who progressed after Jürgen Melzer retired hurt.

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