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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal win first of two Italian Open matches of day

The Guardian logo The Guardian 4 days ago Associated Press
Roger Federer hitting a ball with a racket: Roger Federer on his way to victory in his first match of the day against João Sousa. © Reuters Roger Federer on his way to victory in his first match of the day against João Sousa.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal advanced with routine wins in the first of their two matches at the Italian Open on Thursday.

A washout on Wednesday backed up play, causing the title contenders to try to win their double-headers as efficiently as possible to save energy. Federer saved all seven break points he faced to beat João Sousa 6-4, 6-3, and is due to play Borna Coric for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Related: Italian Open: Konta beats Stephens but faces Venus Williams in second match of day

“Good thing was this one was not that physical,” Federer said. “Borna is tough. I lost to him a couple of times last year.”

Compared to his attacking display in Madrid last week, Federer’s defensive game was particularly sharp. En route to breaking Sousa midway through the first set, Federer ran down a drop shot with a perfectly timed slide and replied with a delicate, angled put away.

Federer fell behind 0-40 in the next game but then won five straight points to secure a 5-3 lead, closing out the service game with a stretch forehand cross-court passing shot on the full run from the corner drawing a loud roar from the Foro Italico crowd. Federer hit 25 winners to Sousa’s eight.

The eight-time Rome champion Nadal cruised past Jeremy Chardy 6-0, 6-1 and will meet Nikoloz Basilashvili.

a man standing in front of a crowd: Spain’s Rafael Nadal serves the ball to France’s Jeremy Chardy. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images © AFP/Getty Images Spain’s Rafael Nadal serves the ball to France’s Jeremy Chardy. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

The Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco rallied past fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. Others advancing included Kei Nishikori, Diego Schwartzman, and Jan-Lennard Struff.

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