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Olympic doping ban looms for Russia after WADA panel ruling

World Anti-Doping Agency panel has recommended Russia’s drug-testing authority be declared non-compliant with international rules, potentially paving the way for an Olympic ban

The prospect of Russia being banned from next year’s Tokyo Olympics has loomed closer as a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) panel recommended the country’s drug-testing authority be declared non-compliant with international rules.

In a statement, WADA said Friday its Compliance Review Committee (CRC) had recommended that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) be suspended again when the global anti-doping watchdog’s Executive Committee meets in Paris on December 9.

If WADA chiefs adopt the recommendation, Russia faces severe sanctions including a possible ban from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The CRC issued its recommendation after asking Russia to explain “inconsistencies” in laboratory data handed over by Moscow to WADA investigators in January.

Full disclosure of data from the Moscow laboratory was a key condition of Russia’s controversial reinstatement by WADA in September 2018.

RUSADA had been suspended for nearly three years over revelations of a vast, state-backed doping regime which including a systematic conspiracy to switch tainted samples at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

WADA had previously warned Russia would face the “most stringent sanctions” if any of the data handed over was found to have been tampered with.

In its Friday statement, WADA said the CRC suggested “serious consequences in line with the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories.”

The United States Anti-Doping Agency, which was sharply critical of WADA’s decision to lift its suspension of reinstate RUSADA, called for a lengthy ban following Friday’s announcement.

“Anything less than a four-year sanction for this critical violation that includes aggravating circumstances following years of denial and deceit would be another injustice in a long line of many for clean athletes,” USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said in emailed comments to AFP.

Friday’s development is the latest twist to a saga which exploded in 2015, when an independent WADA commission investigating allegations of Russian doping said it had found evidence of a vast state-supported conspiracy stretching back years.

A 2016 report by WADA investigator Richard McLaren said more than 1,000 Russian competitors across multiple sports had benefited from the scheme between 2011 and 2015.

In an interview with AFP last month, RUSADA’s chief Yuri Ganus appeared resigned to Russia being handed an Olympic ban, accusing unidentified Moscow authorities of handing over falsified lab data to WADA.

“Russia’s Olympic squad will be prevented from participating fully in the Olympic Games in Tokyo…. I think that this will also happen at the (Winter Olympic) Games in China,” Ganus told AFP.

On Saturday, Ganus said the suspension proposal did not reflect any shortcoming on the part of the agency.

“RUSADA is being issued non-compliance because the compliance decision it was handed in September 2018 was contingent, and to keep it, two demands had to be met. These were met formally but not properly,” Ganus said.

It was not due to “the quality of RUSADA’s work,” he said, adding: “It’s a purely technical decision… conditions were not met whose implementation was not up to us.”

Russia was already banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics, although some 168 athletes were allowed to compete under a neutral “Olympic Athlete From Russia” designation.

Ganus said he expected a range of other penalties too, including restrictions on holding international tournaments in Russia, exclusion of Russians from international sports federations and fines.

Ganus insisted RUSADA officials had not been responsible for falsifying the data, insisting his staff “had nothing to do with the database and its transfer.”

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov later denied the data had been tampered with, stating “nothing was removed” before the cache of information was handed over.

Friday’s announcement by WADA came as World Athletics (formerly IAAF), the governing body for track and field, abruptly halted Russia’s reinstatement process into the sport.

The World Athletics decision was taken after the president of the Russian athletics federation (RUSAF), Dmitry Shlyakhtin, and other senior officials were suspended for “serious breaches” of anti-doping rules.

These charges included provision to an athlete of false explanations and forged documents to explain missed doping tests.

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Novak Djokovic health worry after reaching Paris Masters third round

Novak Djokovic has revealed he is struggling with illness after beating Corentin Moutet at the Paris Masters.

The top seed was sluggish in the first set and was broken by Moutet after a volley into the net.

Moutet failed to take two set points and then served for it at 5-4 but produced an error-strewn game and was broke

It proved costly because it allowed Djokovic rediscover himself and he won the set in a tiebreak 7-2.

In the second set, Djokovic broke Moutet twice and although the French player gained one of the breaks back, it was not enough as the world Not served out the match comfortably.

Djokovic will now face Britain’s Kyle Edmund on Thursday and was just happy to get through.

“I didn’t feel health-wise 100 per cent in the last couple of days, but it is what it is,” Djokovic said.

“It’s not the first time I didn’t play at a really high level. Lots of errors, especially in the first set.

Corentin Moutet

Corentin Moutet was unable to stop Novak Djokovic (Image: GETTY)

“First time against a young player who is talented, very quick. Returns a lot of balls back that usually other guys wouldn’t get, he gets it.

“And he was pumped, and I respect his fighting spirit.

“It was a good match in the end, and I found a way to win, which in [these] circumstances when you’re not feeling your best, is important.”

Moutet missed a big opportunity by failing to serve out the first set and not taking advantage of an out-of-form Djokovic.

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Putin visits International Judo Federation headquarters in Budapest

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the headquarters of the International Judo Federation (IJF) in Budapest today.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the International Judo Federation headquarters in Budapest ©IJF

Putin is the Honorary President of the IJF and, during his trip to the Hungarian capital to meet the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, he held talks with Marius Vizer, President of the IJF.

Among the topics discussed during meeting was next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, judo in school, the refugee programme and the IJF Academy.

Afterwards, Putin praised the progress the IJF has made under the leadership of Vizer, President of the world governing body since 2007.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Marius VIzer posed for a picture under a painting of Kano Jigoro, the sport's founder ©IJF
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Marius VIzer posed for a picture under a painting of Kano Jigoro, the sport’s founder ©IJF

“I think that thanks to the Hungarian Government and Budapest the IJF has this beautiful headquarters,” Putin said.

“From the moment you were elected IJF President, there have been so many positive changes in judo.

“The rules changes made the sport more attractive, with many new events.

“Judo has started becoming a global sport, you have brought judo to the highest level, allowing opportunities for athletes.

“In the name of all judo fans, I wish to thank you for your work.”

Putin has described judo as his “favourite sport” and is a regular visitor to IJF events, including the 2017 World Championships in Budapest and last year’s event in Baku.

Putin and Vizer also watched the judo competition together during the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

He was awarded the 8th dan in 2012 by the IJF, becoming the first Russian to reach that level.

Vizer deflected the praise of Putin, claiming others deserved as much credit as him.

“Thank you Mr. President for honouring me, the achievements was a team work,” he said.

“It is my honour to be part of this team.

“You have also contributed greatly to the development of judo and are inspiring millions of Judoka through your achievements in your life.”

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GT Champions at Hungaroring

The next race of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe season held at Hungaroring.
The weekend was all about.
Raffaele Marciello and Vincent Abril, who finished first place on both qualifying and standing at the top of the podium after the two races. This excellent performance earn them enough points for the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG duo to be on the third place overall, after fallen out at  Nürburgring.
The Hungarian visitors enjoyed every minutes of the show. The open hour at the boxes resulted massive tumult ahead of each teams and the open podium above the boxes were full of people who enjoyed the performance of the mechanics during the wheel changes.
The overall champions were crowned in Hungary, as were class title-winners in Pro-Am and Silver Cup.
Raffaele Marciello and Vincent Abril delivered a spectacular showing in Hungary. It was not enough to earn them the title – they had fallen out of contention at the Nürburgring – but a brace of pole-to-victory performances ensured the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG duo third in the standings.
FFF’s secret weapon was the incredible work of their pit crew, who frequently gained significant time for the #563 Lamborghini.
Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli emerged victorious at the top of the overall standings, with the #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini crew edging Luca Stolz and Maro Engel (#4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG) by the smallest possible margin. As has become the norm in sprint racing, the title remained in the balance until the chequered flag flew.
The #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini took six podiums this term – four of them runner-up finishes – without winning a race. In fact, Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart were among the top-three finishers in five of the last six contests, helping to ensure that a Lamborghini crew stood on the podium 10 times from 10 races.
A total of 19 drivers finished on the overall podium this season.
The final race to be held at Barcelona on 28th September will decide the final order of the championship.

The next race of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe season held at Hungaroring. The weekend was all about
Raffaele Marciello and Vincent Abril, who finished first place on both qualifying and standing at the top of the podium after the two races. This excellent performance earn them enough points for the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG duo to be on the third place overall, after fallen out at Nürburgring.
The Hungarian visitors enjoyed every minutes of the show. The open hour at the boxes resulted massive tumult ahead of each teams and the open podium above the boxes were full of people who enjoyed the performance of the mechanics during the wheel changes.

The overall champions were crowned in Hungary, as were class title-winners in Pro-Am and Silver Cup.

Raffaele Marciello and Vincent Abril delivered a spectacular showing in Hungary. It was not enough to earn them the title – they had fallen out of contention at the Nürburgring – but a brace of pole-to-victory performances ensured the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG duo third in the standings.
FFF’s secret weapon was the incredible work of their pit crew, who frequently gained significant time for the #563 Lamborghini.

Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli emerged victorious at the top of the overall standings, with the #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini crew edging Luca Stolz and Maro Engel (#4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG) by the smallest possible margin. As has become the norm in sprint racing, the title remained in the balance until the chequered flag flew.

The #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini took six podiums this term – four of them runner-up finishes – without winning a race. In fact, Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart were among the top-three finishers in five of the last six contests, helping to ensure that a Lamborghini crew stood on the podium 10 times from 10 races.

A total of 19 drivers finished on the overall podium this season.

The final race to be held at Barcelona on 28th September will decide the final order of the championship.

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Motor racing-Hamilton says Monza pole farce marks a dangerous trend

The fastest track on the calendar produced one of the slowest ever final shootouts for pole position ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.

Nine drivers did all they could to avoid taking the lead, all eager to get a tow from someone else at a track where the aerodynamic pull from a car in front can be significant, until most ran out of time.

The pole was decided on the first flying laps, clocked before red flags came out as Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen crashed at Parabolica.

When the session resumed, drivers left it late to come out and then drove too slowly to get round to start one final flying lap.

“Everyone going out as late as we just did there, for example, with two minutes to go, it’s going to continue to be an issue in places where you particularly need a tow,” said Hamilton.

“It won’t be until someone crashes that they’ll change it, most likely.

“The drag is a big issue here, the tow is a key to getting a good lap. Everyone was slowing right down and also blocking the way, so you couldn’t really get through. It was pretty dangerous,” added the Mercedes driver.

“I nearly crashed a couple of times trying to stay out of the way of the guys that were braking ahead of me and then people trying to come past me.”

Hamilton will start on the front row, next to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff agreed the situation was also an unintented consequence of aerodynamic changes introduced this season that have made it easier for drivers to follow each other and overtake.

“I think what we saw today, the consequence of all cars missing the last lap, is just a shame for Formula One and doesn’t do any of the teams and drivers any good,” said the Austrian.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified fifth, said Leclerc had been lucky, but also saw the funny side of the situation.

“The reality is no-one wanted to be first,” he said. “You just give everyone else a tow and not yourself. You bleed a couple of tenths… it’s more knowing that you’re helping everyone else.

“I think we should probably just get a talking to and make sure it doesn’t happen again because we all miss out and so do the fans. The real winners were the Leclerc fans — they certainly won.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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Vuelta a Espana 2019-Gilbert back to winning ways on stage 12

After Mikel Iturria’s triumph the previous day, it was another day for the breakaway on stage 12 of the Vuelta a España, with Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) taking a dramatic solo victory in the Basque Country.

The Belgian attacked on the last of three punchy climbs in the final 40km, and held off the chasing Alexander Aranburu (Caja Rural) and Fernando Barceló (Euskadi-Murias) on the 8km run down into Bilbao.

It wasn’t an easy day for the overall contenders as it took 100km for a breakaway to form in what was a rapid opening two hours. However, and despite the peloton being vastly reduced by the searingly steep final climb, there were no open hostilities among the red jersey hopefuls and no change to the overall standings.

The Vuelta continues on Friday with a key stage for those title contenders, with a summit finish in store at Los Machucos.

Results
Pos. Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 3:48:18
2 Alexander Aranburu Deba (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:00:03
3 Fernando Barcelo Aragon (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
4 José Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:22
5 Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb 0:00:26
6 Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:29
7 Cyril Barthe (Fra) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
8 Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Pro Team
9 Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
10 Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:31
General classification after stage 12
Pos. Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma 44:52:08
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:52
3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:02:11
4 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:00
5 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 0:03:05
6 Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal 0:04:59
7 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:05:42
8 Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:05:49
9 Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida 0:06:07
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:06:25

Overview

The 2019 Vuelta a España begins in Torrevieja on Saturday August 23 and finishes in Madrid on September 15.

The route, unveiled in a ceremony in Alicante in December, sees the number of summit finishes cut back a touch from nine to eight, but it’s still a mountainous route that sticks with the Vuelta’s recent traditions.

Some brutally steep climbs have been sought out for the occasion, with the 4km Mas de la Costa and the painfully steep Los Machucos returning to the route. Andorra is also back on the menu and will host a short but punchy stage to bring week one to a close. The 100-kilometre route comprises five climbs and will ensure some gaps in the overall classification.

There will be just over 60 kilometres against the clock, with a 24km team time trial in Torrevieja opening the race and a 36.1km individual chrono in Pau at the start of the second week.

The final week of action gives the sprinters more opportunities to find glory, along with two important mountain stages in the Sierras around Madrid, before the last stage into the Spanish capital.

  • Race preview: Opportunity knocks at Vuelta a España 2019

In the absence of 2018 champion Simon Yates, the 2019 Vuelta looks wide open, with a range of candidates and a sense anything can happen. Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde are two of three former winners on the start line – alongside Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) – and head up a Movistar team without Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz, who was ruled out through injury just 48 hours before the start of the race.

Primoz Roglic, third at the Giro, is very much among the favourites, and his Jumbo-Visma team have a credible alternative in Steven Kruijswijk, who was third at the Tour de France.

Movistar and Jumbo-Visma seem the strongest teams in the race, but elsewhere are a number of interesting challengers, including Colombians Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First). Team Ineos leadership is shared between Wout Poels and 24-year-old Tao Geoghegan Hart, while two-time top-10 finisher Wilco Kelderman leads Sunweb and Rafal Majka leads Bora-Hansgrohe.

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European Maccabi Games’ In Budapest, 29 July – 7 August

An estimated 2,300 athletes from 42 countries will arrive in Hungary for the 15th European Maccabi Games, to be held in Budapest from July 29 to August 7, it was announced yesterday.

Fidesz MEP Tamás Deutsch, head of the sponsorship body for the games featuring Jewish athletes, told ATV on Monday that the opening ceremony will be held at Budapest’s Hidegkuti Nándor stadium, home to football club MTK, on July 30.

With 63 contests, this will be the largest such event ever held in Hungary, Deutsch said, adding that 214 Hungarian athletes will also take part.

Competitions will be staged in 12 venues, 10 of them in Budapest.

Many of the related cultural programmes will be hosted in the Orczy garden in the Eighth District, while other venues will include the nearby Ludovika Campus, the Vasas handball court, MTK’s volleyball arena, and the Lantos Mihály sports ground.

No admission fees will be charged. An admission ticket is required for the opening ceremony, available at emg2019.hu.
Photo courtesy of emg2019.hu

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Legendary Swimmer Katinka Hosszú to Continue Until 2024 Olympics

Hungarian swimming legend Katinka Hosszú discussed her short and long-term goals and the new International Swimming League (ISL).

She also revealed her plans for after the Tokyo Olympic Games. Hosszú will continue swimming professionally and has her eyes set on the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The Iron Lady revealed her struggle with depression following her fourth-place finish in the 2012 London Olympics. For Hosszú, London “was the failure of my life. I even considered retiring. I wanted to go back to university for my Masters in Psychology.” Despite the setback, she continued to train with her ex-husband, Shane Tusup, and became the legendary Iron Lady, snagging gold medal after gold medal.

Rather than setting out to win an Olympic gold medal, she focused on hitting time targets and setting world records. As a result, the gold medals followed. Hosszú said:

It didn’t matter if someone preceded me, I just had to finish within the target time I wanted to reach.

She also spoke about her new coach and her contact with her fellow swimmers. According to Hosszú, it was difficult to “find the balance between Katka and the Iron Lady, and most of the time I was the latter. Now, I’m the Iron Lady when I train or compete, otherwise, I’m Katka. I like to talk to the other swimmers about serious subjects such as ISL or how to improve the swimming scene.”

After the World Championship, she will compete in the World Cup in Asia in August. Afterward, in autumn, she will head to the first ISL competition prior to attending the Hungarian and European championships.

When asked about her plans after the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Hosszú revealed her choice to continue swimming. She said that she doesn’t “have much time left in the sport, five years if I’m lucky, we’ll see.” However, her FINA Champions Swim Series results suggest she could be even better after 30. She explained that most swimmers retire at a young age because of lack of motivation; swimming and training can be monotonous and it’s not motivating financially either.

In swimming, I’m the one in control and I want to enjoy it for a while longer.

Hosszú definitely plans “to swim in the Paris Olympics in 2024. I don’t really feel that I’ll have enough of the sport next year. I love it. (…) The only thing that could stop me before 2024 is getting pregnant. But, this isn’t really a possibility right now.” She added that even after Paris and the retirement from professional sport, she will continue to swim just for the love of it.

On her side projects, such as her swim school, swimming association and the International Swimming League and the upcoming first season of the new competition series, Hosszú said that as she reached the top in swimming she started to look for new challenges as well: “When I decided to change direction, the world suddenly opened up and the possibilities started to flow in. It wasn’t a conscious decision that I’ll continue to swim and at the same time I will build a brand, do the League, the school and the club.”

In regards to her side projects – such as the swim school, swimming association, International Swimming League and upcoming first season of the new competition series – Hosszú explained that she started to look for new challenges after reaching the top in swimming: “When I decided to change direction, the world suddenly opened up and the possibilities started to flow in. Continuing to swim while also building a brand and doing the League, school and club wasn’t a conscious decision.”

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HARRISON, NORMAN AND ECHEVARRIA SET FOR STOCKHOLM – IAAF DIAMOND LEAGUE

World record-holders, world leaders and world ranked No.1 athletes will compete at the Bauhaus-galan when the IAAF Diamond League reaches Stockholm on Thursday 30 May.

USA’s Kendra Harrison, world ranked No.1 in the 100m hurdles, returns to Stockholm for her first IAAF Diamond League appearance of 2019.

The world indoor champion won in Stockholm in 2016, just five weeks before she broke the world record with her 12.20 run in London.

Michael Norman has established himself as one of the most exciting up-and-coming athletes. The US sprinter opened his 2019 campaign with a world-leading 400m PB of 43.45 and he will contest his first 400m race in the IAAF Diamond League in Stockholm.

“Michael Norman is the most exciting runner in the world at the moment after opening his season a month ago, just four tenths of a second from the world record,” says meeting director Jan Kowalski. “On Sunday he ran 200m in 19.84 into a headwind and I think that he can challenge the 400m world record in Stockholm.”

Norman’s 43.45 places him fourth on the world all-time list behind Wayde van Niekerk’s world record of 43.03, set when winning the Olympic title in 2016.

“I’m excited to be running my first 400m race in Europe against a world-class field,” said Norman. “With so much depth in the 400m around the world, the anticipation leading up to Bauhaus-galan is getting me excited. I can’t wait to see what the atmosphere is like and what fast times will come out of this meet.”

Cuban long jumper Juan Miguel Echevarria will return to the scene of his headline-making leap of 8.83m from 12 months ago.

The world indoor champion, aged just 19 at the time, was denied a lifetime best in Stockholm last year as the wind was just marginally over the limit at 2.1m/s, but three weeks later he set a wind-legal PB of 8.68m to top the 2018 world list.

“It was a memorable day,” said Echevarria, who opened his 2019 outdoor campaign with a wind-assisted 8.92m. “The jump came in the sixth and final round so I was quite tired but I remember that I hit the board well and my take off was really good. It will be such fun to compete at Bauhaus-galan again. The crowd certainly inspires you to great results.”

World champion and world No.1 Luvo Manyonga, Olympic champion Jeff Henderson and European champion Miltiádis Tentóglou are also in the long jump field.

IAAF Diamond League champion Timothy Cheruiyot, world ranked No.1 at 1500m, will face all three Ingebrigtsen brothers – Henrik, Filip and Jakob – in the 1500m.

The other world No.1 ranked athletes set to compete in Stockholm are Ramil Guliyev (200m), Sam Kendricks (pole vault), Fedrick Dacres (discus), Laura Muir (1500m), Hellen Obiri (5000m), Mariya Lasitskene (high jump) and Sandra Perkovic (discus).

The star-studded field also includes the best Swedish athletes, including discus thrower Daniel Ståhl and pole vaulter Angelica Bengtsson.

Organisers for the IAAF

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Nadal overtakes Federer´s top-10 streak

Rafael Nadal has now occupied a place in the world’s top 10 for 735 consecutive weeks, passing Roger Federer for the second-longest streak in the history of the ATP rankings.

Nadal made a statement on Sunday ahead of defending his French Open title in Paris, despatching Novak Djokovic 6-0 4-6 6-1 in the Internazionali d’Italia final.

The victory ended his wait for a first tournament win in 2019, the Spaniard having underwhelmed on clay so far this year, losing semi-finals in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

But the 11-time Roland Garros champion made light work of the current world number one in Rome, even though he was taken to three sets.

There was further good news on Monday for Nadal, who has been ensconced inside the top 10 since April 25, 2005.

He has overtaken Federer on the all-time list when it comes to appearances in consecutive weeks, with only Jimmy Connors (789) left ahead of him on the all-time list.