Cloud nine for Nadal

Rafael Nadal reigned supreme in Rome once again, overcoming Novak Djokovic 6-0 4-6 6-1 in the title decider to claim his ninth Internazionali BNL d’Italia trophy.

Nadal has been in ruthless form at the Foro Italico all week and looked to be continuing that momentum into Sunday’s final as he took the first set 6-0, the first time a bagel had been recorded between the pair in their 54th meeting.

The Spaniard had spent two hours less on court this week compared to his opponent, who had been subjected to a couple of late night three-setters against Juan Martin Del Potro and Diego Schwartzman, and it showed. The world No. 2 appeared the fresher of the two players and capitalised on some unusually short balls and some poor drop shots from the Serb to dominate the 40-minute opener.

You can never count Djokovic out and he didn’t disappoint in the second set, putting that difficult start behind him, raising his level and fighting back into contention. Solid serving and some stunning forehand winners helped him through his service games, he saved all four break points he faced and then grabbed the set when he had an opportunity in the tenth game.

Nadal returned to his dominating ways in the decider, his trademark forehand was firing and he broke the world No. 1 in the opening game and then steam-rolled through the rest of the set. Djokovic appeared heavy legged and was unable to produce the standard of tennis we are so used to seeing from the 15-time Grand Slam champion, sending a backhand volley into the net on championship point to hand Nadal title number nine at the Italian Open and his first trophy of 2019.

“I played well, a great match in general terms. First set have been fantastic level of tennis. Second, too, but I lost lot of opportunities to win that second set. When that happens against a player like Novak, you are in trouble, no? I lost second,” explained Nadal.

“In the third, the beginning of the set have been so important. I felt myself playing well during the whole match, being honest. Just little bit of nerves at the end of the second set. But the level of tennis have been high, no? Have been a great match in all aspects. So happy for that.”

Djokovic, who hit 33 winners and committed 39 unforced errors in the match, still took positives from his performance.

“I mean, his level was very high, without a doubt, throughout the entire tournament. I knew that. But I started a bit slower. I wasn’t as fresh in my legs. He used it. It took me a bit of time to kind of get used to his pace of the ball, which is completely different,” said Djokovic.

“I played last, what, two, three matches, three matches out of four matches, I played night session. Completely different bounce. It doesn’t bounce higher than the waistline. Very muddy, slow. During the day it’s different. Especially with his forehand. I tried to get used to where the ball is bouncing, where I have to kind of position myself to hit it well.”

“The second set was obviously better. Played well. Had my chances in first couple games, I thought, in the third set. Then he ran away from me.”