Day 4 Preview: Nadal Puts Perfect Records On The Line vs. Isner In Rome
The second round continues Wednesday at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, with 10 men's singles matches on the schedule in Rome. Three of those matches will take place on Centre Court, with defending champion Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev in early action before an all-Italian evening showdown between Jannik Sinner and Fabio Fognini. Stefanos Tsitsipas is also on the slate and will face Grigor Dimitrov in Grand Stand Arena.
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. John Isner (USA)
Nadal has never lost consecutive matches on clay and puts his 43-0 record following defeat on the surface on the line against John Isner. The Spaniard is also 18-0 against Americans on clay, being pushed as far as a deciding set just twice.
But both of those deciders came against Isner, who extended Nadal to five sets at Roland Garros (2011) and three sets in Monte Carlo (2015). Nadal leads their ATP Head2Head 7-1, with Isner's win coming at the 2017 Laver Cup. They also met in 2015 in Rome, a match Nadal won in straights, but have not played since Beijing in 2017.
A 10-time champion in Rome, Nadal is in his 800th week inside the Top 5, 17 years after first breaking through at that level in 2005. Isner is seeking his first win against a Top-5 player since he beat Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev en route to the 2018 Miami title.
FOLLOW THIS WEEK'S ACTION
After a three-set quarter-final loss to Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid — his first tournament back after a six-week injury layoff — Nadal on Monday slipped one place to No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as he defends 1,000 points from his title run one year ago in Rome. He must better the Greek's result this week to maintain his standing at No. 4 in next week's Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
"Madrid has been a positive week in different ways," Nadal said of a challenging tournament in which he saved four match points against David Goffin to reach the quarters. "In other ways things could have been better. But I'm here to keep trying. It's going to be another chance for me to play well, to compete again against the best players of the world.
"I'm excited. Rome is a very special place for me."
 Alexander Zverev (GER) vs. Sebastian Baez (ARG)
Zverev seeks to back up his run to the Madrid final with another deep run in Rome, where he was champion in 2017. The five-time ATP Masters 1000 titlist — more than any active player outside of the Big 4 — begins his latest quest to add to that tally with his first meeting with Sebastian Baez.
"It was the first Masters 1000 that I won, at just the age of 20, which was quite spectacular for me," Zverev said ahead of his opening match. "From then on, my career kind of started. I was very happy at that moment, but now we're here in 2022 and I hope I can repeat that."
The World No. 3 has enjoyed a strong start to the year at the Masters 1000s, reaching the Miami quarter-finals and the Monte Carlo semis before picking up four wins in Madrid.
Baez will be contesting his second match against a Top 10 opponent following a four-set loss to Tsitsipas in the Australian Open second round. The junior World No. 1 won his first ATP Tour title last month in Estoril and enters Rome at a career-high of No. 37 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings behind a 16-11 record on the season.
 Jannik Sinner (ITA) vs. Fabio Fognini (ITA)
Both Italians impressed in the opening round, delighting the Rome crowd with all-action victories on Centre Court. Fognini denied Dominic Thiem the first win of his injury comeback on Monday evening, 6-4, 7-6(5), before Sinner fired 26 winners to get past Pedro Martinez on Tuesday night.
They will again take the stadium court under the lights on Wednesday for their first ATP Head2Head meeting.
"I got to know him a little bit more in Davis Cup," Sinner said of Fognini. "He gave me many, many things, some energy, because it was not easy for me for the first time last year in Turin. For sure now it's going to be tough for me, for him. It's going to be a packed house. But I [will] just enjoy it. Hopefully it's going to be a great match.
"I hope [the crowd support] will be equal. Because he made a lot of history, especially here. And I start now, so it's a little bit another generation."
Fognini is 20-12 against fellow Italians, including a 3-1 mark in Rome and a 17-5 record since July 2011. But Sinner is undefeated against his countrymen at 3-0, most recently beating Lorenzo Musetti in Antwerp last year.
Fognini will turn 35 in May and is more than 14 years Sinner's senior. The veteran praised the 20-year-old following in his post-match comments Monday, calling his countryman "our future star on the ATP Tour".
Best Of The Rest
Three men's singles matches are set for Grand Stand Arena, including Tsitsipas vs. Dimitrov. The fourth-seeded Greek is 4-1 against Dimitrov, and can equal Alcaraz for the ATP Tour lead with his 28th win of the season. Tsitsipas has eliminated the World No. 20 Bulgarian in straight sets in each of the their past two tournaments, in Barcelona and Madrid.
In doubles action, Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury will take on a to-be-determined alternate team while Italian wild cards Luca Nardi and Lorenzo Sonego look to upset eighth seeds and recent Barcelona and Munch champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany.