Rafael Nadal saw off the challenge of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic to win a 10th Italian Open title as he showed signs of finding his best form ahead of the French Open.
Nadal, the world No. 3 from Spain, edged out Djokovic 7-5 1-6 6-3 to pick up his second title of the clay-court season.
There were some nervy moments throughout the week, not least when forced to save match points against Denis Shapovalov in the last-16, but the King of Clay once again reigned supreme in Rome.
‘I was lucky at some moments,’ Nadal told Amazon Prime after the win. ‘Especially against Shapo.
‘I think I played a good tournament. I was playing better and better, finding my rhythm on clay, I think I had a very good, positive win.
‘It’s amazing. I have this trophy in my hands for a 10th time. It’s something impossible to imagine, but it happened.’
It was an up and down contest – a repeat of last year’s French Open final – with Nadal’s form dipping dramatically after winning a tight first set as Djokovic, who had to play two matches against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday, stormed back.
But Nadal – who suffered a nasty fall in the opening set – regained his composure and secured his most significant win of the season to date.
It was an 88th ATP Tour title for the Spaniard and he has now equalled Djokovic’s record haul of 36 Masters 1000 wins.
A 14th French Open title next month will see him rise above Roger Federer to become the most decorated male player in Grand Slam history.
Even if he hasn’t been at his best, Nadal will still take some stopping at Roland Garros – where he has only been beaten twice.
Former British No. 1 Greg Rusedski feels realistically only Dominic Thiem and Tsitsipas could pip Djokovic or Nadal to the title.
‘You can never discount Dominic Thiem, he’s been a multiple finalist there in Paris and pushed the likes of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal,’ Rusedski told Amazon Prime.
Most Grand Slam titles (ATP)
20 – Roger Federer
20 – Rafael Nadal
18 – Novak Djokovic
14 – Pete Sampras
‘Stefanos Tsitsipas, he’s been the hottest player on the clay courts until Rafa won these two events.
‘The way he played in Monte Carlo was brilliant and he pushed Novak Djokovic all the way. Those are the four guys to look out for.
‘If you want one dark horse, maybe Jannik Sinner could do something surprising but doesn’t win. He would go quarters or semis, but not to win.’
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