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Rafael Nadal will go for his ninth Rome title this week.

Nadal, Despite Title Drought, Feeling Positive In Rome

Spaniard trying to defend Rome title this week

Rafael Nadal is well aware he hasn't won a title this year, five and-a-half months into the season and more than halfway through his most cherished part of the year, the European clay-court swing, which Nadal has dominated for the past 14 years.

The Spaniard reached the semi-finals at the season's first two clay-court ATP Masters 1000 events, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and the Mutua Madrid Open, and at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, three tournaments where Nadal has won a total of 27 titles.

But his title drought isn't bothering Nadal, the defending champion at this week's Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. The Spaniard continues to feel as if he's getting better every week.

Sometimes winning a title or not doesn't make a big difference. I didn't win a title. It's true I missed a couple of tournaments. At the same time it's true that when I was playing, I was close to winning it. I didn't play good enough to win, but I didn't play very bad. I am there,” Nadal said on Monday in Rome. “I have been in... four semi-finals in a row, since Indian Wells. But that's it. That's tennis: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

“It's true that I lost a couple of matches that, playing good, probably I will win. But that's how it works.”

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Most recently, Nadal fell in the Madrid semi-finals to reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas. In a way, however, the Spaniard has been here in the past. In 2015, at this point in the season, Nadal had captured only won ATP Tour title, in Buenos Aires, but he went onto win three titles, including Stuttgart and Hamburg.

I feel good. It's true that I didn't win a title, but it's true that my feeling is, for example, maybe in 2015 I won Buenos Aires, I think, but the feeling is much better,” Nadal said.

The 32-year-old is the defending champion in Rome, a tournament he's won eight times in all – 2005-07, '09-10, '12-13, '18. He'll try to become the first player this season to successfully defend a title. “What it means is it's difficult win a tournament,” Nadal said.

The second seed in Rome will face Richard Gasquet or Jeremy Chardy in his opening match.

I am feeling good. I'm happy to be back here in Rome. I took a day off yesterday. I had a good sleep tonight. Just excited to be back in this special place for me. Try to have a good practice this afternoon, and let's see if I am ready to compete at the level that I want to do,” Nadal said.

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