Rafael Nadal remained on course for a 10th Internazionali d'Italia title as he comfortably beat Dusan Lajovic to join top seed Novak Djokovic in the last eight.

Competing in his first tournament since February, Nadal has looked in fine form in Rome and followed up Wednesday's impressive 6-1 6-1 dismantling of Pablo Carreno Busta with another encouraging display, beating Lajovic 6-1 6-3.

Lajovic did show some fight during the early exchanges, responding well to a break of serve by breaking back – and to love.

But a marathon game, which included six instances of deuce, followed and Nadal prevailed to go 3-1 up, before going on to lose just four more points when closing out the opening set.

Lajovic looked set to lose with a whimper when successive breaks gave Nadal a 4-0 lead in the second, and although the former responded by winning three games on the bounce, he had given himself too much to do and the Spaniard cruised to victory.

Nadal was a class above for much of the contest, cleverly pulling the Serbian this way and that, and the world number two does not think he could be doing much better.

"I played I think a very positive level of tennis. Of course it needs to keep improving," Nadal said. "I need to keep working on a couple of things that are not coming automatically, but I can't ask for more.

"[It was] another great evening for me against another good opponent. Can't complain at all. Much better [than] what I expected.

"The first set was 6-1, but a super-tough beginning of the match. A lot of good points. I'm very happy, it's an important victory for me after such a long time. To start the tournament with these two victories is great news."

Earlier in the day, world number one Djokovic felt he was "pushed to the limit" by fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic as he won 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 to reach the last eight in the tournament for a 14th successive year.

It was the first time in more than a decade that the two friends had met on the court and Djokovic was made to work particularly hard, saving five of six break points over the course of the contest and fighting back from 4-1 down in the tie-break before ultimately outlasting his compatriot.

Djokovic's next opponent will be Dominik Koepfer, who dealt with Lorenzo Musetti in relatively comfortable fashion, winning 6-4 6-0.

Fourth seed Matteo Berrettini was pushed all the way by fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia to secure his spot in the next round, coming through a tense 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-1) to set up a meeting with Casper Ruud, who beat Marin Cilic 6-2 7-6 (8-6).

Eighth seed Diego Schwartzman was given a run for his money by Poland's Hubert Hurkacz, but the Argentinian came from behind to prevail 3-6 6-2 6-4.

He will be up next for Nadal, while the other quarter-final will be contested between Grigor Dimitrov and Denis Shapovalov, both of whom came through three-setters on Friday.

Novak Djokovic said he was "pushed to the limit" by fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic before booking a quarter-final place at the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome.

The world number one advanced to the last eight for a 14th straight year at the tournament with a 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 victory over Krajinovic.

Djokovic had not faced Krajinovic in more than a decade and said it was difficult facing off against one of his closest friends.

"It was one of the longest sets of my career," he said of the first set which lasted an hour and 27 minutes. "It is never easy to play against one of your best friends of so many years.

"We have only played 10 years ago in Serbia and he has changed as a person and as a player. It is rare that we have not played against each other in this decade. We trained several times together and we have played the Davis Cup together; it was good to play against him.

"Janko Tipsarevic [Krajinovic's coach], a Serbian tennis legend, is doing a great job with him. He's in the top 30; I know he's in shape.

"I did not start the game as I wanted. I made many unforced errors, but we must congratulate him for pushing me to the limit."

Djokovic saved five of six break points to seal the win after two hours and seven minutes, setting up a quarter-final clash with Dominik Koepfer.

He attacked Krajinovic's forehand with gusto and delivered a string of drop shots throughout the first set, but that game plan did not come off when holding two set points at 5-4 on his opponent's serve.

Krajinovic then started the tie-break strongly, storming into a 4-1 lead, before Djokovic powered back and took advantage of an error from his opponent to seal the set at the fifth time of asking.

Djokovic wasted little time moving through the gears at the start of the second set, driving forehands down the line to break serve at 1-1. He maintained his advantage to reach 5-3 before breaking serve again to seal the win.

Only 5,000 fans per day will be allowed in at the French Open amid a spike in coronavirus cases in the country.

Main-draw matches are scheduled to begin at Roland Garros on September 27 after the grand slam was moved due to COVID-19.

It was announced earlier this month that 11,500 spectators would be allowed in per day, although several players raised concerns after the US Open was held behind closed doors.

France reported 10,593 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday before a reduced capacity for Roland Garros was announced.

"The FFT [French Tennis Federation] will therefore assume the responsibility of organising the tournament with a new lay out," a statement read.

"It is important for the sporting, social and economic life of the country that a major event like Roland Garros can be put on while respecting health imperatives.

"Such will be the case for the 2020 tournament.

"The FFT is conscious of how disappointing this news will be for those who will not be able to come to the stadium due to the reduction in capacity. We would like to thank you for your understanding and your dogged support of the tournament.

"Roland Garros 2020 will set an example by endorsing, promoting and defending its cherished sporting values."

Dusan Lajovic set up a meeting with Rafael Nadal as a host of seeds and big names fell by the wayside at the Internazionali d'Italia on Thursday.

Neither Novak Djokovic nor Nadal was in action after scoring victories a day earlier, but there was no shortage of shocks.

Home hopeful and seventh seed Fabio Fognini was among those to lose, going down 7-5 7-6 (7-4) to Ugo Humbert.

The match saw a remarkable 11 breaks of serve, including the first six games of the opener before Fognini was broken to love, then losing an early advantage in the second-set tie-break.

He was joined in making an early exit by US Open quarter-finalist Andrey Rublev.

Beaten by brilliant Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev in the last eight at Flushing Meadows, Rublev lost in three sets to Hubert Hurkacz on this occasion.

Fifth seed Gael Monfils succumbed 6-2 6-4 to qualifier Dominik Koepfer, while Milos Raonic fell to Lajovic as the Serbian secured the Nadal clash, landing a 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-2 success.

Kei Nishikori also tumbled out as he struggles to regain his rhythm on the ATP Tour.

The former world number four was appearing in just his second tournament of the year due to an elbow injury and then the coronavirus pandemic but could not get past Lorenzo Musetti.

Musetti, an 18-year-old qualifier, had already dumped out Stan Wawrinka and said after his 6-3 6-4 success: "I think I played really smart. It was different to Wawrinka.

"They are great champions and I am really happy right now."

He was the only Italian man to win, though, with Casper Ruud seeing off Lorenzo Sonego.

Denis Shapovalov had a straightforward victory and Diego Schwartzman also headed through in two sets.

Rafael Nadal showed few signs of rust as he swept aside the challenge of Pablo Carreno Busta at the Internazionali d'Italia.

Playing his first match since winning the Mexican Open on February 29 before the sport was shut down, Nadal defeated his fellow Spaniard 6-1 6-1 in just 73 minutes.

It was an emphatic return to action against Carreno Busta, who took Alexander Zverev to five sets after a run to the US Open semi-finals last week.  

World number two Nadal will meet either Milos Raonic or Dusan Lajovic in the last 16.

Both players survived break-point opportunities in their opening service games, before Nadal reeled off five straight games to win the opener.

Carreno Busta stopped the rot with a hold to open the second set but was otherwise powerless to stop Nadal, who won every game from there.

Despite a first-serve percentage of just 49, Nadal only faced one break point in the contest as he beat Carreno Busta for the sixth straight meeting.

Nadal's win on Wednesday came after Novak Djokovic showed little sign of being affected by his US Open default in a 6-3 6-2 win over Salvatore Caruso.

The standout result of the day saw teenage home hope Jannik Sinner record a superb win over third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, triumphing 6-1 6-7 (9-11) 6-2 for just the second top-10 win of his career.

Matteo Berrettini was another Italian to win in Rome as he beat Federico Coria in straight sets, while Marin Cilic defeated sixth seed David Goffin 6-2 6-2.

Novak Djokovic showed little sign of being affected by his US Open default as he bounced back to defeat Salvatore Caruso at the Internazionali d'Italia.

Top seed Djokovic had not played since he was disqualified at Flushing Meadows earlier this month after hitting a line judge with the ball in the fourth round against Pablo Carreno Busta, his first defeat of the season.

But he returned to action in typically composed fashion in Italy, dispatching world number 87 Caruso 6-3 6-2.

Djokovic, who received a bye for round one, took just 84 minutes to claim the victory and will face Mario Cecchinato or Filip Krajinovic in the last 16.

The four-time Rome champion did not face a single break point throughout Wednesday's encounter, converting three of the eight Caruso offered up.

Having clinched the opening set at the second time of asking, Djokovic crucially nosed himself ahead in the second when he broke Caruso in the third game.

At one point during the 11-minute game, Djokovic complained about noise from the mainly empty stands. While fans are not allowed, coaches and tournament officials were in attendance.

"Which one?" the umpire replied, to which a frustrated Djokovic responded: "Which one? There's 10 people in the stands."

However, unlike in New York, Djokovic this time kept a lid on his temper and had the match all but won when he broke the Italian again to make it 5-2, the world number one then duly wrapping up victory with his first match point.  

Rafael Nadal said Dominic Thiem deserved to win the US Open title in New York.

Thiem claimed his maiden major title with a dramatic five-set victory over Alexander Zverev in the final at Flushing Meadows on Sunday.

The Austrian finally broke through after losing three grand slam finals, including two to Nadal at the French Open.

Nadal praised Thiem for his success, which came with the Spaniard and Roger Federer not in the draw and with Novak Djokovic having defaulted in the fourth round.

"I'm happy for Dominic. If somebody deserved to win a big title it's him," he said. 

"A super hard worker, very focused on his goals, a good person, a good human being. He deserved it.

"Sorry to Sascha [Zverev], he was close but in some ways I think even though Sascha played a great final, I think the road to the final from Dominic had been a little bit more solid.

"So in some ways he deserved the title and Sascha will have more chances in the future. But after a lot of years of hard work, I think Dominic deserved it. I'm happy for him."

Nadal is set to face Pablo Carreno Busta at the Internazionali d'Italia in his first match since the ATP Tour season resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Andy Murray and Eugenie Bouchard have been handed wildcards for the singles draws at the French Open.

Former world number one Murray made his grand slam return at the US Open earlier this month, defeating Yoshihito Nishioka before losing to Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.

Murray, 33, was a finalist at Roland Garros in 2016 and reached the semi-finals for four consecutive years between 2014 and 2017.

He is currently ranked 110th in the world after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery last year.

Bouchard enjoyed a restorative run to the final of the Istanbul Open last week, where the 2014 Wimbledon finalist was beaten by Patricia Maria Tig despite taking the first set.

Tsvetana Pironkova has also been awarded a spot in the women's draw after her surprise run to the US Open quarters.

Murray, Bouchard and Pironkova are the only non-French players to receive the 16 wildcards on offer across the two singles draws.

Grigor Dimitrov cruised through his Internazionali d'Italia first round clash with Gianluca Mager on Monday, while Kei Nishikori won his first game since last year's US Open. 

Fifteenth seed Dimitrov was too powerful for Italian wildcard Mager, beating him 7-5 6-1 in 74 minutes, and will face Yoshihito Nishioka or Generali Open winner Miomir Kecmanovic in the next round. 

Nishikori, who has suffered with injury over the past 12 months, overcame Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4 7-6 (7-3) and could face three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka if he defeats Lorenzo Musetti on Tuesday.

"I'm very happy to win," Nishikori said. "I think winning is most important for now. I need to get a lot of confidence. It's been a long time since the US Open last year. It isn't perfect yet, but hopefully one by one I'll get better.

"I tried to be aggressive when I could. He hits a lot of topspin balls, so it's not easy, but I tried to have good defence and good offence."

Hubert Hurkacz dumped out Great Britain's Dan Evans in three sets, while Marin Cilic overcame Alexander Bublik 6-7(7-4), 6-2, 6-4 to set up a meeting with sixth seed David Goffin. 

Seeds Felix Auger-Aliassime and Karen Khachanov, meanwhile, slipped to defeats to Filip Krajinovic and Casper Ruud respectively. 

The second round will see top seeds Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in action after they were handed first-round byes.

Novak Djokovic was unlucky but his US Open default showed the importance of the need for self-control on the court, according to Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic was disqualified in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for inadvertently hitting a ball at a line judge after being broken by Pablo Carreno Busta.

Nadal will face Carreno Busta in his return to action in Rome this week and, while he expressed some sympathy with the world number one, the 19-time grand slam champion agreed with the widespread view that tournament officials were left with no other option after Djokovic's actions.

"The consequences have been always the same. Nothing new on that," Nadal said at a news conference.

"Novak was unlucky. [But] The rules say clearly that's a default. Sorry for him. He had an opportunity there. But in some way you should not be doing this.

"It's very unfortunate, very unlucky situation. But it's important to have the right self-control on the court, because if not, you can be unlucky."

Nadal will be playing for the first time in over six months at the Internazionali d'Italia. He has not competed since February 29 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He elected not to enter the US Open bubble to defend the title he won in 2019 and his only goal is to be competitive against his compatriot.

"I arrived in plenty of time to try and have the right practices," Nadal added. "You need matches to feel 100 per cent… I'm excited about going back to competition, without big expectations.

"I know I have a tough first [match] against Pablo. He's playing great. So let's see, it's going to be a good test.

“[My] expectation is to always go on court and try to feel competitive. That's the first goal. Go on court, feel [that I'm] competitive, and then I will see how I feel and what kind of goals I can look for."

Novak Djokovic says he will never forget being defaulted at the US Open but admits he cannot promise he will not misbehave on court again.

The world number one was disqualified from his last-16 match against Pablo Carreno Busta after striking a linesperson with the ball.

The Serbian, who said he was "extremely sorry" for his actions, was left feeling "sad and empty" over the incident, which saw him take a ball from his pocket and hit it behind him after dropping serve.

The 33-year-old is back in action this week at the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome, where he will start against either Tennys Sandgren or Salvatore Caruso after being given a bye in the first round.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Djokovic said: "Of course, it was a shock to finish the US Open the way it was finished. It was the first time in my career that something like this happens.

"Of course, it could have happened earlier in my career, you know, could have happened to many players.

"The ball hits a line judge, it was just unfortunate that I hit the line umpire in a very awkward place. There was a lot of speculation and discussions whether it was deserved or not, I accepted it and I moved on.

"I cannot promise or cannot guarantee that I will never ever do anything similar to that in my life. I'm going to try my best, obviously, but anything is possible in life.

"I accepted it, I had to move on and that's what I did. Of course, I did not forget about it, I don't think I will ever forget about it, these things stay in your memory for the rest of your life, but I don't think I will have any major issues coming back to the tour and being able to perform well and hit the tennis ball during the point.

"I checked on [the line judge] after the match, she said that she was fine, that there were no injuries. I felt really sorry to cause the shock and drama to her, she didn't deserve that in any way, she's obviously volunteering as well, she loves tennis and has been there for quite a few years.

"It's unfortunate for both of us to experience that. It was very awkward and disappointing for me to finish off the US Open that way because I felt very good about myself, my game, I had won the Western and Southern Open.

"I came into the fourth round feeling really good and hitting the ball really nicely, and ready in every aspect. It was very unexpected and very unintended as well, to hit her.

"But when you hit the ball like that as I hit it to have a chance to hit someone who is on the court and the rules are clear when it comes to that."

Djokovic, who was unbeaten in 2020 prior to the US Open, has won the Internazionali d'Italia on four occasions, the last of which came in 2015.

Alexander Zverev lamented missed chances after coming "super close" to being a grand slam champion in a loss to Dominic Thiem.

Zverev fell short in a dramatic US Open final on Sunday, losing 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 (8-6) to Thiem on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Playing his first major final, Zverev was also up a break in the third set and led 5-3 in the fifth before losing.

Zverev was disappointed to let the opportunities slip away in the decider.

"I was super close to being a grand slam champion. I was a few games away, maybe a few points away," he told a news conference.

"For me what upset me the most is not the third set or something like that, it's the fifth set. I had a lot of chances in the fifth set and didn't use them.

"I'm 23 years old. I don't think it's my last chance. I do believe that I will be a grand slam champion at some point."

Zverev served 15 double faults in his defeat, having made the better start before Thiem responded.

He said it was difficult to accept his loss after being in such a promising position.  

"Obviously being two sets to love and a break up in a grand slam final then losing is not easy," Zverev said.

"Yeah, I mean, the match turned when he broke me I think for the first time in the third set.

"I think he started playing much better and I started playing much worse. That's when the match turned. But I still had plenty of chances after that." 

Dominic Thiem described his US Open success as a dream come true after rallying from two sets down to claim his first grand slam crown in New York.

After three runners-up appearances in major finals, second seed Thiem finally broke through by outlasting Alexander Zverev 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 (8-6) at Flushing Meadows on Sunday.

The Austrian, who overcame a slow start, became the first player to rally from two sets down to win a US Open final in the Open Era, and first since 1949.

Thiem is also the first man born in the 1990s to win a grand slam after prevailing in more than four hours in a rollercoaster final on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"Definitely I achieved a life goal, a dream of myself, which I had for many, many years," Thiem told reporters after his memorable comeback against the fifth-seeded German. "Of course, as a kid, as well, when I started to play tennis. But back then it's so far away.

"Then I got closer and closer to the top. At one point I realised that, wow, maybe one day I can really win one of the four biggest titles in tennis.

"I put a lot of work in. I mean, I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one of the four majors. Now I did it. That's also for myself a great accomplishment.

"I mean, it's by far not only myself, it's an accomplishment from all my team, from all my family. I guess also today is the day where I gave back huge amount of what they did for me."

Thiem lost a thrilling Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic earlier this year, having fallen short in the 2018 and 2019 French Open deciders to Rafael Nadal.

"When I first realised that maybe one day I could really win a major was when I first broke into the semis of Roland Garros, when I broke into top 10," said the 27-year-old Thiem, who never gave up hope against Zverev. "From that moment on I dreamed about it. I thought that it's maybe realistic.

"Back then I thought my biggest chances by far are on clay. But then the end of last year somehow changed a lot of things when I won Beijing, when I won Vienna, when I played the great Nitto ATP Finals. Then I realised that my game is suiting the hard courts really well.

"Of course, since I'm working with Nico [Massu], we improved my game on hard court a lot. Also changed my mind that many shots are working great on that surface. So I think my best major until now US Open, I played in Australia. Now it's not for me that big surprise anymore that it's not the French. At the end it doesn't matter to me. Main thing is that I have one of these four now."

As Thiem basks in his first major triumph, attention quickly turns to the upcoming French Open in Paris.

The rescheduled French Open is due to get underway on September 27 at Roland Garros amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked about the transition from hard to clay courts, two-time French Open runner-up Thiem said: "I think physically I'm going to be fine, 100 per cent. I'm going to have enough time to recover from all the troubles I had.

"But the question is how I'm going to do it with the emotions mentally. Obviously, I've never been in this situation. I achieved a big, big goal. Well, I don't know how I'm going to feel the next days.

"At the same time it's going to be or I expect that it's going to be easier for me now in the biggest tournaments because I had it in the back of my head that I had a great career so far, way better career than I could ever dreamt of, but until today there was still a big part, a big goal missing.

"With this goal achieved, I think and I hope that I'm going to be a little bit more relaxed and play a little bit more freely at the biggest events."

Dominic Thiem made history as he came from behind to edge Alexander Zverev to win his first grand slam title at the US Open on Sunday.

In a rollercoaster decider on a quiet Arthur Ashe Stadium, Thiem – playing his fourth major final – eventually closed out a 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 (8-6) victory.

The Austrian became the first player to rally from two sets down to win a US Open final in the Open Era, and first since 1949.

Thiem is also the first man born in the 1990s to win a grand slam, needing more than four hours in the first US Open final to be decided by a fifth-set tie-break.

There were six breaks of serve in the final set, with Zverev – playing his first major final – giving up a 5-3 lead before Thiem also failed to serve it out at 6-5.

But as both players looked tired and with Thiem, 27, seemingly cramping, he managed to hold his nerve the better of the two to win a first major.

Zverev, who came from two sets down to beat Pablo Carreno Busta in the last four, was this time on the front foot from the outset and needed only 30 minutes to take the opener.

The German, 23, broke his apparently anxious opponent twice in the first set and raced into a 5-1 lead in the second.

Thiem raced forward to volley at the net and earn one break back, but Zverev served out the set and quickly went about making progress in the third.

Yet another poor service game concluded with a wayward stroke under little pressure, seemingly bringing the finish line into view after just 90 minutes of play.

But Thiem finally showed some resilience and, despite seeing one opportunity pass with an agonising miss at the back of the court, he tied the set again, then staying patient before another gain took the match to a fourth as the wobbling Zverev went wide.

Thiem's level improved as both held comfortably to begin the fourth set, although the Austrian was passive as he squandered two break points in the sixth game.

But Thiem would take his next chance, grabbing a 5-3 lead when Zverev double faulted and then sent a forehand into the net, before closing it out to force a fifth set.

The pair traded breaks to begin the decider as both showed nerves before Thiem recovered from 0-30 in the sixth game and fell behind again in the eighth, Zverev breaking for a 5-3 lead, only to give that advantage straight back with a poor game when serving for the title.

Serving at 30-30 in the 10th game, Thiem produced two spectacular forehands, the first a rocket down the line before a passing shot.

Thiem, looking the more tired and perhaps cramping, broke for 6-5 when Zverev sent a forehand well long, but he too failed to serve it out after a brief visit from the trainer.

Zverev's 15th double fault gave Thiem a 5-3 lead in the tie-break before the latter squandered two match points, including one from a weak second serve from the German.

But Thiem would finally close out victory, falling onto his back behind the baseline as Zverev pulled a backhand wide to complete a dramatic finish.

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Thiem [2] bt Zverev [5] 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 (8-6)

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Thiem – 43/55
Zverev – 52/64

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Thiem – 8/8
Zverev – 15/15

BREAK POINTS WON

Thiem – 7/13 
Zverev – 8/18

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE

Thiem – 62
Zverev – 64

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE

Thiem – 68/48
Zverev – 70/41

TOTAL POINTS

Thiem – 162
Zverev – 159

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