Rome Masters: Rafael Nadal wins 10th title in Italian capital with victory over Novak Djokovic
Rafael Nadal defeats his great rival Novak Djokovic in three sets to win the Rome Masters for a record-extending 10th time; the Spaniard will now target a 14th French Open crown when the clay-court Grand Slam begins on May 30 in Paris
By Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 16/05/21 8:48pm
Rafael Nadal sealed a record-extending 10th title at the Rome Masters after defeating his great rival Novak Djokovic in three sets in Sunday's final.
The Spaniard collected his 88th career ATP title with a 7-5 1-6 6-3 win over the world No 1 for a timely confidence boost ahead of the French Open.
Nadal will be favourite to land a 14th title at Roland Garros which would move him one ahead of Roger Federer on the all-time Grand Slam list. Both players are currently tied on 20 majors.
"I was lucky in some moments, especially against (Denis) Shapovalov," Nadal said, referring to the round-of-16 match he won in a tie-break in the decider.
"And then I think I played a good tournament, I have been playing better and better, finding my rhythm on clay. I had a very positive week and I'm very happy.
"It's amazing to have this trophy in my hands for the 10th time. It's something impossible to imagine but it happened so I'm super happy and can't thank my team enough."
After a mid-match wobble, Nadal turned up the heat in the decisive moments of his 57th career meeting with top-seed Djokovic - the pair's ninth in Rome - to secure the victory over the defending champion in two hours and 49 minutes.
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Nadal broke to go ahead 6-5 in a tight opening set and then staved off Djokovic to take the early advantage in the contest.
But Djokovic, who lost heavily to Nadal in their previous meeting in the French Open final last year, pounced to quickly level the match at one set apiece after the Spaniard's intensity dropped.
Second-seed Nadal then saved two break points at 2-2 in the decider, before switching gears to complete the win and match Djokovic's record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles.
Djokovic was in positive mood when reflecting on his run to the final in Rome, which included two wins in a day.
Nadal's Most Successful Tournaments 🏆— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 16, 2021
🇫🇷 Roland Garros: 13
🇪🇸 Barcelona: 12
🇲🇨 Monte-Carlo: 11
🇮🇹 Rome: 10
He said: "Going into Paris brings me a good sensation. I'm actually now starting to feel like I want to feel on clay. If I manage to play the way I played last night and today, I think I have a good chance to go all the way in Paris.
"I'm going to play a tournament in Belgrade the week before the French Open, so that's going to give me another set of matches. I don't know how many but hopefully I can have a few coming into Paris ready to rock 'n roll.
"The last couple days have really given me a confidence boost on clay. I have found my game. So now I just have to maintain it, that level, and hope it peaks in Paris."
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Most Titles in Open Era (since 1968)
1. Jimmy Connors - 109
2. Roger Federer - 103
3. Ivan Lendl - 94
4. Rafael Nadal - 88
5. Novak Djokovic - 82
6. John McEnroe - 77
7. Rod Laver - 72
8. Bjorn Borg - 66
9. Ilie Nastase - 64
9. Pete Sampras - 64
Agony for Brit Salisbury
Joe Salisbury and Rajiv Ram came up short in the men's doubles final as they lost in straights sets to Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.
Briton Salisbury, 29, and American partner Ram, beaten finalists at the Australian Open in February, were defeated 6-4 7-6 (7-4) in Rome by the Croatian second seeds in one hour and 24 minutes.