Rafael Nadal wins his 10th Rome title to equal Novak Djokovic’ record of 36 Masters 1000 titles

For the 57th time and for the 9th time in a Rome Masters final we were treated to one of the greatest match-ups of all time, Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic came into the meeting leading their head to head at 29-27, and one above the Spaniard in Masters 1000 titles won (36 to Novak, 35 to Rafa).

There were questions over the world number one coming into the final following a marathon Saturday thanks to the rain on Friday meaning his quarter-final with Tsitsipas had to play out on Saturday morning and then made work of seeing off Sonego later in the evening.

It was however the world number one who looked sharper at the beginning. He really opened up the angles on his forehand and put Nadal under some immediate pressure in a long opening service game and breaking the 9 time Rome champion.

The break of serve didn’t last long at all as Nadal found his grove to level up, it began to be a close encounter, I did feel it was Djokovic who had the edge and maybe could’ve capitalised as Nadal tumbled once again this week on those nails in the court and he was not happy…

Despite this and the annoyance of Nadal he didn’t let it bother him. Surprisingly at 5-5 one of the most bizarre and wild service games from Djokovic who was frustrated with something waving his heads in the air and having being broken shouting at his camp.

A break could’ve followed back for Djokovic who got to 0-30 on the Spaniard’s serve but couldn’t break and from looking like the more likely to take control was down a set.

At the start of the second set we saw Nadal escape from another 0-30 hold of serve and then Djokovic escaped a break point to lead 2-1 on serve. We did begin to see some should stretches from Djokovic between points and at the change over…

Suddenly, for the third game running the world number one clawed his way to 0-30 on the Spaniard’s serve, a poor drop shot set up break points and a bullet backhand forced the error and Djokovic took a 3-1 and then 4-1 lead in the second set.

There was a risk of it becoming 5-1, the world number one was climbing through the gears and it felt like it was coming towards the end of set one before the slip up by Novak. There was a lot of talk of maybe Saturday catching up with Djokovic but I didn’t think for a moment he looked tired and 5-1 did happen at the second time of asking following a big return and a backhand into the net from Nadal.

The errors mounted and Djokovic bulldozed his way to the second set 6-1…

At the start of the third we saw the best of both in their opening service games, Nadal was quick in his game, Novak likewise came through unscathed but some of his defence was exceptional to dig himself out of a hole and find those finest of margins.

The pressure ramped up, the intensity on the court transcended into the crowd, Djokovic was looking the most likely and had an opportunity to break. Pretty much the perfect rally for the Serb but when the forehand sat up nicely on break point smashed it into the net!

He couldn’t break and for the first time in a long time Rafael Nadal had break points of his own and took a 4-2 lead in the final set.

A special passing forehand winners from the 9 time champion consolidated the break leaving Djokovic with a mountain to climb and Nadal one game from a 10th Rome title!

Nadal had match points on the Djokovic serve but would be forced to serve it out…

Served out without a problem, and a 10th Rome Masters title!

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