Rafael Nadal won his sixth Rome Masters title in a rain-postponed final against Novak Djokovic, defeating the world number one 7-5, 6-3.
It was sweet revenge for a straight sets loss to the Serb in last year’s final and the win means that he will move back ahead of Roger Federer at number two in the world rankings. It was also the perfect preparation for the defence of his French Open title with the tournament due to get underway in Paris on Sunday and takes his career head-to-head with his rival to 18-14 in his own favour.
It meant that Nadal won claycourt titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome with his only loss coming in Madrid where he went down to compatriot Fernando Verdasco.
“He’s always the favourite, even if I’ve won against him seven times,” said Djokovic. “He is the best player in the world on this surface.”
Djokovic failed to win a claycourt title as he prepares to go into Roland Garros where he is aiming to make it four Grand Slam titles in a row after winning Wimbledon and the US Open crowns last year and the Australian Open early this year.
The victory prevented Djokovic from a Foro Italico hat-trick winning the event in 2008 and 2011.
“If you don’t use the opportunities against Rafa he gets the momentum on his side and plays better,” said Djokovic, who said he is pleased with his week despite the concluding defeat. I made a lot of unforced errors today. In my opinion, he didn’t have to play his best, I made a lot of errors and that cannot happen when you play Nadal.”
Sharapova ready for Roland Garros
On Sunday, showing incredible resilience, Maria Sharapova came back from the brink of defeat to beat Li Na in the final of the Rome Masters 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).
“This is a great win for me going into Roland Garros,” said Sharapova. “This gives me a lot of confidence. It will be nice to have a week off now, after playing three tournaments in the last four weeks. I’ll have to time to recover, mentally and physically.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.