The headline match Friday on quarterfinal day at the Rome Masters is none other than chapter 49 of the Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal rivalry. The two have combined to meet more times in the Open Era than any other rivals, and they also have combined to win the last 11 Rome titles, seven going to Nadal.
Djokovic leads 25-23 (6-14 on clay) and has won the last six meetings and 13 sets (10 of last 11 matches, 22-4 sets). Nadal’s last win came in the final of 2014 Roland Garros.
“Tomorrow is a big challenge playing against Rafa. The fact that I played against a left-handed player today hopefully will get myself positioned well for the next match,” Djokovic said after a 3-set win over Thomaz Bellucci. “I’ve played him in Rome several times.
“I have watched his match. I’m going to try to get myself ready. I’m hoping I can start better than I did today.”
This is their sixth meeting in Rome (Nadal leads 3-2) and earliest meeting here since the quarterfinals in 2007.
Djokovic, who has won 15 straight matches against Top 10 opponents (33-2 in sets), is the all-time leader with 29 career ATP Masters 1000 titles followed by Nadal with 28. Djokovic is appearing in the quarterfinals or better here for the 10th consecutive year. He’s won his last 12 matches in Rome and is 35-2 on the season. Nadal leads the ATP World Tour this year with an 19-3 clay court record, winning 15 of his past 16 matches. This is the Spaniard’s 11th quarterfinals in Rome in 12 appearances. He is 9-1 in quarterfinal matches in Rome after coming from a set down to beat Nick Kyrgios.
“I’m playing well, I feel like I am playing at the right level,” he said. “Today was important victory for me, of course, against a very difficult opponent.”
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