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Rafael Nadal Wins His First Clay-Court Title of 2019 • Beat Djokovic In Rome Masters

Rafael Nadal of Spain poses with his trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their men's singles final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2019. EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI
Rafael Nadal of Spain poses with his trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their men’s singles final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2019. EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Rafael Nadal now won’t have to answer as many questions when he arrives at Roland Garros. He answered those with his play on Sunday afternoon in Rome.

 

Nadal captured his elusive first clay-court title of the season and won the Internazionali BNL d’Italia for the ninth time in his career when he defeated Novak Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in a final that lasted two hours and 25 minutes.

 

Despite losing in the semifinals in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid while carrying a 3-13 record in his last 16 matches against Djokovic into Sunday’s final, Nadal had to have been considered the odds-on favorite in this one. That’s because whereas he had dominated all four of his previous Rome contests in easy straight sets, Djokovic was coming off consecutive three-setters against Argentines Juan Martin Del Potro and Diego Schwartzman. The Serb’s quarterfinal against Del Potro–in which he saved two match points–required more than three hours.

 

Nadal played like the favorite, too–especially in the early going. The second-ranked Spaniard dropped a mere three points on serve in the opening set while breaking serve three times to bake an impressive  “BAGEL”.

 

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his men's singles final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2019.  EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his men’s singles final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2019. EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI

Djokovic briefly righted the ship by fighting off four break points midway through the second set and then breaking Nadal at 5-4 to force a third.

 

In the end, though, Nadal’s first-set dominance returned. The King of Clay broke Djokovic right away in the decider and never looked back. He added two more breaks to his cause while losing just six service points.

 

As the top two players in the world, Djokovic and Nadal will be seeded one and two at the upcoming French Open and cannot face each other until the final.

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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