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Nadal Sets Gulbis Clash; Ferrer Beats Verdasco

Rome, Italy

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal will face Ernests Gulbis in the third round.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal will take on Ernests Gulbis in an intriguing third-round clash at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 5-0, but their last meeting was one to savour, with the Spaniard prevailing 7-5 in the third set at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March.

"Tomorrow I play against an opponent who is very dangerous," said Nadal. "He’s playing well and he’s having a great season. I had a tough match against him in Indian Wells this year...He’s an aggressive player, big serve, big shots from the baseline, and I have to be playing great if I want to have any chance."

Nadal opened his campaign on Wednesday evening in Rome by disappointing home hope Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-3 in 61 minutes. The left-hander won 74 per cent of his service points and broke the No. 25-ranked Fognini five times.

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"I think I played the right match to go through and I played well," said the Spaniard. "In the beginning Fabio had more mistakes, but I prefer to talk about myself. [I was] aggressive when I had the chance."

The 26-year-old Nadal is bidding to reach his eighth final in as many tournaments this year and is coming off his sixth ATP World Tour title of the season at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Wawrinka). The Mallorcan has compiled an ATP World Tour-best 32-2 match record and is looking to win his 24th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown this week by lifting the trophy at the Foro Italico for the seventh time.

Latvian qualifier Gulbis defeated Viktor Troicki of Serbia, 6-1, 6-1 in 71 minutes.  The 24-year-old Gulbis was the champion in Delray Beach this year and has jumped from World No. 136 in the Emirates ATP Rankings at the start of the year to No. 46. 

David Ferrer came through a tough all-Spanish clash, edging Fernando Verdasco 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and 27 minutes. In a re-match of their second-round contest from 12 months ago, which Ferrer won in straight sets, the fourth seed converted five of his eight break points, inching into a 9-7 lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Madrid native Verdasco.

The 31-year-old Ferrer, who reached the final at the Foro Italico in 2010 (l. to Nadal), will look to reach his ninth quarter-final in his 11th tournament this year when he takes on Philipp Kohlschreiber on Thursday. The German broke serve five times as he dismissed Spain’s Albert Ramos 6-4, 6-1 in 77 minutes. The 29-year-old Kohlschreiber is coming off a runner-up showing at the BMW Open in Munich (l. to Haas) and has a 3-7 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Ferrer.

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