Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic’s epic rivalry shows no sign of waning in Rome final
We have seen it time and time again, yet the thrill of watching Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic never wanes.
In what was the 57th meeting of the ATP Tour’s most iconic rivalry, Djokovic fought back from losing the first set and appeared to have the momentum heading into the decider.
Yet Nadal fought back to claim his tenth Italian Open title with a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 win against his great rival, with this latest battle as compelling as all that went before.
Yet Nadal lived up to his status as the king of clay by finding a way to win and confirm his status as the red-hot favourite to win the French Open in Roland Garros when the second Grand Slam tournament of the year gets underway next month.
This win for Nadal brought the head-to-head record of two of the games all-time greats to 29-28 in favour of the Serbian, with Nadal making a bold statement that he is still the man to beat on clay after some wobbles in recent weeks.
“I was lucky at some moments, especially against Shapo (Denis Shapovalov),” Nadal told Amazon Prime.
“I think I played a good tournament. I have been playing better and better, I have been finding my rhythm on clay. I had a very positive win and I am very happy.
“It is amazing. I have this trophy in my hands for the 10th time. [It is] something impossible to happen, but it happened so I am super happy.
“I can’t thank enough all the fans and all the supporters. I have the trophy and this year is just amazing.”
Most Titles in Open Era (since 1968)
1 @JimmyConnors 109
2 @RogerFederer 103
3 Ivan Lendl 94
4 @RafaelNadal 88
5 @DjokerNole 82
6 John McEnroe 77
7 @RodLaver 72
8 Bjorn Borg 66
9T Ilie Nastase 64
9T Pete Sampras 64#IBI21
— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) May 16, 2021
Djokovic was philosophical about his setback, as he found some holes in Nadal’s game that he will look to exploit if the duo meet in another French Open final.
“Congratulations to Rafa and his team,” said Djokovic. “Every time we meet on the court we play some amazing matches and this was another one.
“We have been asked a lot about the ‘Next Gen’ and when they will break through. Maybe we have reinvented the next generation and we are the ones!
“The last few days were a confidence booster for me on the clay. I’ve found the game. Now I have to keep it and peak in Paris.”
This battle will run and run and few will be surprised if the next edition of Rafa v Novak takes place in the French Open final next month.
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