Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic for 9th Italian Open title
Second-ranked Spaniard defeats World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to win ninth Italian Open title
Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 to win a ninth Italian Open title and a record 34rd Masters crown yesterday. World No. 1 Djokovic, winner at the Madrid Open last week, produced an error-strewn performance in his 54th meeting with second-ranked Nadal, who claimed the 81st title of his career.
Nadal overtakes Djokovic at the top of the list for Masters wins - the pair were level at 33 each before yesterday's final - in a timely boost ahead of his assault on a 12th French Open crown in a week's time.
Return to form
After three semi-final defeats in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, Nadal has returned to his best form ahead of Roland Garros and lifted his first title of the season.
The Spaniard dominated early with Djokovic losing a set 6-0 for the first time to a player he describes as his "greatest rival". But Nadal missed four break chances in the second set, dropping his first set this week after losing serve at 4-5, to throw the Serb a lifeline. The fightback was brief as the 31-year-old Djokovic dropped his serve immediately in the third set, smashing his racket in frustration.
Nadal broke his opponent twice more to seal a third win over Djokovic in their five Rome finals, although the latter still holds a 28-26 career edge. Nadal, seeded second, was playing his fourth straight semi-final, but had not managed to go further on clay this season. He had been stunned by Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded eighth and 12 years his junior, in the semi-finals at the Madrid Open last weekend.
Pliskova beats Konta
Meanwhile, Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova swept past Britain's Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-4 to win the WTA Italian Open yesterday. Pliskova, the 2017 French Open semi-finalist, clinched her 13th career title, in the final major warm-up tournament on clay before Roland Garros starts on May 26.
A break in each set was enough for former world number one Pliskova to get past Konta, sealing victory on her third match point after 85 minutes on court. "It was a great week for me and my team," said the 27-year-old, now coached by former Rome champion Conchita Martinez.
"There were a couple of tough matches so I was happy to fight through them. I was a little bit nervous today, but it was the final in Rome, so that's to be expected." Top seeds Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova pulled out injured during the event, while Roland Garros champion Simona Halep crashed out in her opening match in Italy.
Last year she exited in disgrace after smashing a hole in the umpire's chair in a temper tantrum after losing in the second round. Pliskova, the highest remaining seed, got an early break in the final and swept 3-0 up in just eight minutes on the red clay of the Foro Italico.
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