Nadal overcomes Djokovic to seal record 10th Rome title

Novak Djokovic could not deny the remarkable Rafael Nadal, who secured yet another title in Rome on Sunday

Rafael Nadal Rome 2021

Rafael Nadal sealed a record-extending 10th Rome Masters title with a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 win over Novak Djokovic at the Internazionali d’Italia.

It marked a first Masters 1000 triumph of the year for Nadal, who improved to 4-2 in the finals he has played against Djokovic at the Foro Italico venue.  Victory also secured Nadal a 36th Masters 1000 crown, moving him level with Djokovic’s all-time record since the series was established in 1990.

“After achieving 10 in Roland Garros, 10 in Monte-Carlo, 10 in Barcelona, I really wanted this one, no?” Nadal said. “Super important tournament for me. I went through a lot of things during the week. Some positive, some great moments, some lucky moments, suffering moments. At the end I think I played a very solid week of tennis, no? Very happy. The trophy means a lot to me. At the same time, it’s the right moment to win an important title.”

Djokovic spent almost five hours on court on Saturday in his rain-delayed quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas and subsequent semi-final triumph over Lorenzo Sonego, but he showed no signs of fatigue in the opening stages in Rome.

“I could have easily went out from this tournament in quarters,” Djokovic said. “I’m very pleased with my fighting spirit. The level of tennis was higher and higher, actually. Yesterday I played great. Today I thought I also played a high level. Unfortunately decisive moments in the first and third set, you know, just went his way. It was a bit unfortunate.”

The Serbian broke in Nadal’s first service game to go 2-0 up, although Spaniard Nadal hit back in the next game before levelling matters at 2-2. Nadal then broke again, taking advantage of an unconvincing service game from Djokovic at 5-5 on his way to sealing the opening set in one hour and 15 minutes.

Djokovic survived a break point at 1-1 in the second set, before breaking Nadal in the next game to move 3-1 ahead. The Serbian reeled off five games in a row in all, setting up set point with his fifth ace of the match. He forced a backhand error from Nadal to take the second set in 43 minutes.

Nadal saved two break points at 2-2 in the final set, which provided him with the confidence to break to love and open up a 4-2 lead.

“Didn’t capitalise on that breakpoint in 2-all,” Djokovic said. “Next game I played against the wind with used balls. Just tough, you know, to play him from that side. … Yeah, just was a bit unfortunate in those moments, but overall almost three hours of high-quality tennis. Of course I’m disappointed not to win it, but at the same time I’m very pleased with the level of tennis that I managed to find in the later stages of this tournament.”

Nadal sealed victory in two hours and 50 minutes, converting his second championship point when Djokovic sent a backhand long.

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