Rafael Nadal passed a difficult opening test at the Rome Masters on Wednesday, holding off a spirited attack from Italian teenager Jannik Sinner to emerge with a arduous 7-5, 6-4 result
It took almost two and a quarter hours and three match points for the nine-time Rome champion to overcome his 18th-ranked opponent and reach the third round.
The Spaniard who turns 36 on June 3 won his 19th match against teenagers on clay.
“It was a positive match for me, it was important to start with good feelings,” Nadal said. “This was an important victory for me.
“I did a lot of things well but there were some mistakes also. It was experience versus the power of youth.
“I would call this a tough first round, he is already one of the best players of the world.”
Nadal will on Thursday face another young gun when he plays Denis Shapovalov after the Canadian defeated Stefano Travaglia 7-6(2), 6-3.
Second seed Nadal needed well over an hour to lift the opening set on a seventh set point after Sinner twice went up a break
In the second, the Italian broke for 2-1 but was reigned in as Nadal levelled, 4-all before finally putting the match away.
Sinner has 22 winners to the 25 of Nadal with the Spanish veteran breaking on five of 15 opportunities.