Rome - Rafael
Nadal defeated his greatest rival Novak Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 to win a
ninth Italian Open title and a record 34rd Masters on Sunday, leaving
his vanquished foe to label the Spaniard as "the number one favourite
for Roland Garros".
World number one Djokovic, winner at the Madrid Open last week,
produced an error-strewn performance in his 54th meeting with
second-ranked Nadal, who claimed the 81st title of his career.
"Finally I have a title," said Nadal after securing his first title of 2019.
"I'm happy to reach that level in the last tournament before a Grand Slam."
Djokovic had beaten Nadal in the final of the Australian Open this
year for his third straight Grand Slam win after Wimbledon and the US
Nadal overtakes Djokovic at the top of the list for Masters wins -
the pair were level at 33 each before Sunday's final - in a timely
boost ahead of his assault on a 12th French Open crown in a week's time.
"I'm really glad that I managed to get into the third set,
considering the first set where I was blown away from the court," said
"The second set was obviously better. Had my chances in first couple
games, I thought, in the third set. Then he ran away from me."
After three semi-final defeats in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid,
Nadal has returned to his best form ahead of Roland Garros.
"Nadal, number one favourite, without a doubt, then everyone else," said Djokovic of his predictions for Roland Garros.
The Spaniard dominated early with Djokovic losing a set 6-0 for the first time to a player he describes as his "greatest rival".
But Nadal missed four break chances in the second set, dropping his
first set this week after losing serve at 4-5, to throw the Serb a
The fightback was brief as the 31-year-old Djokovic dropped serve
immediately in the third set, smashing his racquet in frustration.
Nadal never looked back sealing a third win over Djokovic in their
five Rome finals, although the latter still holds a 28-26 career edge.
Nadal, the second seed, has not dropped a set all week en route to an 11th Rome final, and his 50th in a Masters tournament.
"I played well, a great match in general terms," he said. "First set was a fantastic level of tennis.
"Second, too, but I lost a lot of opportunities to win that. When that happens against a player like Novak, you are in trouble.
"Just a little bit of nerves at the end of the second set. But the
level of tennis has been high. A great match in all aspects, I'm so
happy for that."
Djokovic had played six hours in his previous two matches, saving two
match points against Juan Martin Del Potro on Friday night.
"I was just running out of fuel a little bit today," said four-time Rome winner Djokovic.
"But I started a bit slower. I wasn't as fresh in my legs. He used
it. Just kind of missed that half a step, especially on the backhand
"He's been playing some terrific tennis throughout the entire week. He was just too strong today.
"It was a great week, considering I was one shot away to lose
quarterfinals against del Potro. To get to the finals is really a great
In the WTA final, Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova swept past
Britain's Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-4 for her 13th career title, which
assures her the world number two spot on Monday.
A break in each set was enough for the former world number one to get
past Konta, sealing victory on her third match point after 85 minutes
"Before the tournament, I was not super confident," said Pliskova, a 2017 French Open semi-finalist.
"So it's little bit like a miracle for me because clay is always tough."
Results from the ATP and WTA Italian Open in Rome on Sunday (x denotes seeding):
Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) 6-0, 4-6, 6-1
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x4) bt Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-3, 6-4