Rafael Nadal continues to be challenged, but continues to meet the challenge during the 2018 claycourt season.
On Sunday he overcame a second-set thrashing to defeat Alexander Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 for an eighth career Italian Open title, in the process moving back to No. 1 on the ATP rankings.
“It has been an amazing week,” said Nadal. “Such an important week to have this trophy with me again after losing in the quarterfinals in Madrid. It was unforgettable and emotional for me. It’s amazing to win eight titles in Rome. It’s a difficult event and to have the chance to win again here means a lot. This is the moment to enjoy winning here again.”
It was his third claycourt title in less than a month, with his only loss on the dirt coming to Dominic Thiem in Madrid.
Nadal had previously won his last Rome title in 2013.
The 31-year-old won his 78th career title, moving to No. 4 on the all-time list behind Jimmy Connors (109), Roger Federer (97) and Ivan Lendl (94).
Zverev tested Nadal from the start, breaking in the opening game of the match, and in the second set winning five straight games to eventually force a third set. The 21-year-old broke early in the third before two rain delays gave Nadal a chance to regroup. The Spaniard broke back for 3-3 and wouldn’t lose another game.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Zverev said about the rain. “Next time, I have to find a way to come out better after the rain and play better tennis. He came out way faster and played much more aggressive than I did.
“And, you know, with the fatigue I had it took me a very long time to get activated again and to get going. Obviously, it wasn’t enough time. It just changed momentum. And Rafa is somebody that if you’re not in the match and if you’re not feeling the ball well, you have no chance.”
Nadal has now won a record 32 Masters-level titles.
Zverev dropped to 8-5 in career finals and 2-2 this year.
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