Rafael Nadal beat world number one Novak Djokovic to win a 10th Italian Open title yesterday and set down a key marker two weeks out from the defence of his Roland Garros crown.
Second seed Nadal won through 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in 2hr 49min against the defending champion in the 57th career showdown between the pair.
“It’s amazing I have this trophy in my hands for a 10th time, something impossible to imagine,” said the world number three who also equalled Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles in his 12th Rome final.
“I remember the first final I won here in Rome back in 2005 against (Guillermo) Coria which lasted five hours,” recalled the 34-year-old of his five-set battle past the Argentine.
Djokovic and Nadal were facing each other for the 57th time, having last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won in straight sets.
The pair have won 15 of the last 17 Rome titles between them.
“I really wanted this title. This had been one of the most important titles in my career. I’d won 10 in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros and really wanted it here too,” added Nadal.
Djokovic saved a first match point in the eighth game of the third but Nadal made no mistake on his second chance in the following to seal his 88th career title after winning in Barcelona earlier this month.
“It doesn’t get a bigger challenge than playing in the final against Rafa,” said Djokovic. “Overall three hours of high quality tennis. I’m disappointed not to win, but pleased with my level.”
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