Rome has always had a special place in Rafa Nadal’s heart and it feels especially good for the 32 year old once more. Not since 2004 has gone so deep into a tennis season without winning a title but now he has ended the slight drought.
Apart from a second set hiccup, Nadal’s victory over Novak Djokovic was an incredibly important one. When he played Djokovic there appeared to be an extra bit of determination as he book-ended the final with clear domination, beating the Serb 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. Nadal was close to winning in straight sets when he had break points in the second but credit to Djokovic for managing to scramble through that set.
For Nadal this was his ninth title in Rome, and he snuck ahead of Djokovic once again in Masters 1000 crowns to 34.
Nadal was thrilled with the “great match in general terms”. It marked the fourth time this tournament that he had a 6-0 set and he described that set as a “fantastic level of tennis”. He missed out on capitalising on opportunities to win the second set but admitted to having a few nerves. Nadal said the beginning of the decider was incredibly important.
“The level of tennis have been high,’ Nadal said. “Have been a great match in all aspects. So happy for that. What means most to me is this trophy. Rome is one of the most important tournaments of the year. Part of the history of our sport. To be able to win here again is the main thing. Then we can talk about first title of the year.
“For me, the most important thing is feel myself playing well and feel myself healthy, with the energy that I need. If that happens, experience is that I going to fight for titles sooner or later. During the weeks, last couple of weeks, every day and every week have been better. And here we are finally with this great trophy with me, important victory.
This was the 54th match between Rafa and Novak with Djokovic still leading the series 28-26.
The scheduling may have had an effect on Djokovic. He finished late the day before when he saved match points to beat Juan Martin Del Potro, but he said he was glad to take the final into the deciding set, despite it also being one-sided.
“The first set where I was blown away from the court,” he said. “Obviously third set was not much different from the first. Actually, first probably three, four games of the third set were quite close. Maybe that’s where I had a slight chance to kind of build on the momentum that I had from winning the second set.
“Yeah, I was just running out of fuel a little bit today. Just kind of missed that half a step, especially on the backhand side. He used it very well. He’s been playing some terrific tennis throughout the entire week. He was just too strong today. I think 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 result.”
The doubles title was won by Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah for the second year in a row, they defeated Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus 6-1, 6-3.