Rafael Nadal set himself up for another year as Roland Garros favourite by earning a record tenth title at the Rome Masters on Sunday, defeating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3
The Spanish king of clay pulled level alongside his rival Djokovic on 36 Masters 1000 career titles after completing his victory in just under three hours.
“I played a good tournament, I was also lucky a few times,” the world No. 3 said. “I’ve found my rhythm on clay and played better and better this week.
“It’s amazing to lift this trophy for the 10th time, it’s just impossible to imagine.
“But it did happen and I’m super-happy to have had this opportunity.”
Nadal let his powerful forehand do the talking against Djokovic, who came to the court with five hours of tennis in his legs from Saturday after finishing off a catch-up match due to rain.
Djokovic – who like Nadal made his trophy ceremony speech in Italian – said he was outplayed on the day.
“Rafa is a great rival, he played very well at the end and was able to close out the match,” the Serb said.
“This has still been an important week for me, I’ve found my game on clay. I’ll go to Paris now with extra motivation, I’m very happy.”
With all the talk of young players someday replacing the Big Three of the Rome finalist plus Roger Federer, Djokovic had a reply: “We are the NextGen,” the player who turns 34 next week said after his match against Nadal, 36 in June.
Nadal and Djokovic have now won 15 of the last 17 Rome editions, with only Andy Murray (2016) and Alexander Zverev (2017) breaking that trophy streak.
The last outside of that elite group to lift Foro Italico honours was Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya in 2004.
Nadal, who struck 21 winners in the 75-minute opening set, found himself pegged back as Djokovic broke twice to win the second.
In the third, Nadal made his move with a break for 4-2. Djokovic saved a Nadal match point two games later before Nadal served out victory in the ensuing game, ending as Djokovic drove a backhand wide.
Main photo:- by ATPTour.com