Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic (6-0, 4-6, 6-1)
Rafael Nadal did not come into the Italian Open in the best of form. The World No. 2 fell in the semi-finals in each of his last three clay-court tournaments.
But despite his recent struggles, Italian Open 2019 betting odds still had Nadal pegged as the favourite in Rome, and so it proved. The Spaniard finally broke out of his mini-slump as he topped World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final in three sets to claim his first title of the year.
The convincing win should provide Nadal with a much-needed confidence boost ahead of the second Grand Slam of the season — the French Open — which begins next week.
Highlights of the game
After falling short in his past few tournaments, Nadal looked back to his dominant best in Rome as his early Italian Open 2019 results were mighty impressive. He steamrolled past his competition through the first few rounds as he lost just six total games in his first three matches.
Old foe Stefanos Tsitsipas — who defeated Nadal en route to the Madrid Open final, where he then lost to Djokovic — provided a bit more resistance. But the Greek was powerless to stop the Spaniard for a second straight semi.
Djokovic, on the other hand, had some recent wobbles against a pair of Argentines in Juan Martin del Potro and Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in the past two days. Both lasted three sets, with Djokovic’s duel against Schwartzman the day before lasted two and a half hours.
The fatigue from those matches seemingly took its toll on Djokovic, who was completely crushed 6-0 in the opening set by Nadal. The Spaniard was simply ruthless as he smashed his trademark forehand all over the court. The leggy Djokovic just couldn’t keep up.
World no.1 Novak Djokovic sits on the bench ahead of his Italian Open final match against Rafael Nadal
The World No. 1 didn’t back down, though, and finally got his first break point opportunity of the match in the fourth game of the second set. However, Nadal saved the point with a beautiful forehand into the corner.
But the Serb eventually picked up that crucial break of serve, which allowed him to take the second set in just under an hour.
Djokovic’s delight was short-lived, though, as Nadal quickly broke his serve in the first game of the third set. Djokovic smashed his racquet in his frustration, knowing that he likely squandered his chance at victory. And so it proved, as Nadal went on to close out the match by winning the third set, 6-1.
With this win, Rafael Nadal has now won the Italian Open nine times, extending his own record. And he’s also won it two years in a row after going winless from 2014-17.
It was also Nadal’s 81st career tournament win and. After Djokovic pulled level with Nadal for the most all-time Masters 1,000 titles, Nadal has nudged back ahead, 34-33.
Since 2005, Nadal has won at least one of the nine Masters 1,000 events in a season every year except 2015.
Despite his defeat, Djokovic still holds the slight edge over Nadal in terms of career head-to-head wins at 28-26. Although, Nadal has extended his decided advantage against the Djoker on clay (17-7).
Nadal’s 6-0 win in the first set was the first “bagel” either great has suffered in their 141 previous sets played against each other.
With the Italian Open done and dusted, it’s now off to Paris as the world’s top two players compete in the 2019 French Open, which begins on the 26th of May.
Just like in Rome, Nadal will be out to defend his title in Roland Garros. He defeated Dominic Thiem in last year’s final to claim his 11th French Open crown.
Due to his injury absence, Djokovic was a lowly 20th seed in last year’s tournament and made a shocking quarter-final exit to Italian Marco Cecchinato. The Serb has crashed out in the quarters in each of the last two French Opens after making the final three straight years from 2014-16.
But Djokovic will be on a mission this year as he aims to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time for the first time since 2016, when he won his one and only French Open title to date.
Nadal and Djokovic met in the first Grand Slam final of the year in Australia — which Djokovic won — and perhaps they will do so again. If they do, though, us odds will likely favour Nadal, who has shown that despite his recent stumbles, he’s still the undisputed man to beat on clay.
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