Rome: Rafael Nadal struggled past 148th-ranked qualifier Paolo Lorenzi 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-0 in his opening match at the Italian Open on Wednesday, looking far from the form that has helped him dominate on clay for six years.
It marked the third consecutive match in which Nadal dropped the first set, having also rallied to beat Roger Federer in the Madrid Open semifinals and then losing in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final. Nadal has never lost consecutive matches on his favorite surface.
Djokovic stretched his unbeaten start this year to 33 matches with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot earlier. The Serb has a chance to take the top ranking from Nadal if he wins this tournament and Nadal fails to reach the semifinals.