The two best claycourters on the ATP tour were on center stage Sunday when world No. 1 Rafael Nadal kicked Novak Djokovic off his red dirt hill, defeating the No. 3-ranked Serb 7-6(2), 6-2 for the title at the Masters Rome.
The competitors were even entering the first-set tiebreak before Djokovic cracked, staring at his coaches box and miming strokes after missing on big points, or screaming at the top of his lungs during other missed opportunities. Nadal ran out to an early break in the second as the match quickly turned in favor of the Spaniard, who collected a record fourth career Rome title.
Djokovic, who won the event last year when Nadal was defeated early in the event, will on May 11 lose his No. 3 world ranking to Brit Andy Murray. It was Nadal’s 15th career Masters series title.
“One of the most important of my career,” Nadal told reporters in regard to the Rome title. “Win in Rome is a a big title. I have right now 15 Masters 1000 in my career, so that’s a lot, and I’m very happy for that. Win here in Rome is always unbelievable.”
It was also the 30th consecutive claycourt victory for Nadal, who hasn’t lost since Rome last year. For Djokovic it was his second claycourt loss to Nadal in the last three weeks.
“Obviously it’s his patience in the certain points (that is key),” Djokovic said. “When I needed to maybe stay a little bit more patient and just play the right shots — I made some unforced errors. It happens a couple of times already on this surface that I’m close, and in the deciding moments he just overcomes the pressure better than me. But that’s why he’s the best in the world in this moment.”
Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in the semis, coming back from a 1-3 deficit in the third set. Rome is the third claycourt title of the year for Nadal after Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
“[Regardless] the result in Madrid and Roland Garros, the clay season is unbelievable,” Nadal said. “I’m very happy for everything. Sure it’s a big surprise for me to win three titles in a row in three weeks. But I never did in the past, so it’s a good thing for me to know I can do.”
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