Defending champion Rafael Nadal ended his 2019 title drought, hammering a fatigued Novak Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 to win a record ninth title at the Rome Masters on Sunday.

Not since 2004 (when he won an August title in Sopot, had the world NO. 2 gone so far into the season without lifting at least one trophy.

Nadal, who was cut down at the semi-final stage over the past month in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and a week ago in Madrid, was crowned at the Foro Italico  after a blitz of an opponent who had played late into the night at his last two wins.

He lost the Australian open final to Djokovic in January.

Spain’s king of clay roared back into the Roland Garros title discussion has he overwhelmed his longtime opponent as the all-star pair played each other for the 54th time.

Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic now stand at 26-28 in their personal series. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

The Spaniard, who now owns 81 career titles, broke his exhausted opponent in the opening and final games of the third set to post the win in just under tow and a half hours.

“It’s been an incredible week for me,” Nadal said after lifting his first trophy since Toronto last April.

“I remember the first time I won here in 2005 .. and now I’m here with a ninth title.”

“This win means everything. It was not an easy week for me, but it’s all better now. I’m happy with how I played, Novak gave me a very tough match.”

Djokovic dumped two straight overheads into the net and finished his afternoon by doing the same with a volley on a Nadal match point. The world No. 1 Serb lost serve six times while Nadal was broken once.

The pair were playing a Rome final for the fifth time, with Nadal now leading that mini-series 3-2.

Djokovic came to Rome after winning the Madrid title, his second of the season after the Australian Open four months ago.

He will now aim to claim a fourth consecutive Grand Slam title as he plays in Paris as world No. 1. .

“I don’t want to speak of fatigue – Rafa was too strong today,” Djokovic told the crowd in Italian.

“I did manage to win a set, it’s always very emotional for me to play in Rome, it feels like home to me.”

Nadal nudged ahead of Djokovic into the lead in all-time Masters 1000 titles with 34. Nadal moved to 26-28 his his series against Djokovic, himself a four-time Rome champion.

The Spanish holder of 17 Grand Slam titles became the  first player this season to successfully defend an ATP title as he played his 50th Masters 1000 final.

He now stands 9-2 in Rome finals, losing twice to Djokovic here.

  • Main Photo: ATP tour

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