Nadal sees off Djokovic to claim 10th Italian Open
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal's 57th encounter ended with Nadal claiming the 2021 Rome Masters title. The pair are expected to meet for the 58th time on a tennis court in a couple of weeks at the French Open in Paris.
The latest chapter in their 15 year rivalry finished 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 after two hours and 49 minutes on centre court at the Foro Italico.
It allowed the 34-year-old Spaniard to brandish the trophy for a record-extending 10th time and join Djokovic on a record 36 Masters title - considered the most prestigious accolade after the Grand slam crowns.
“I think I played a good tournament," said Nadal. "I have been playing better and better, finding my rhythm on clay. I had a very positive week and I’m very happy.
“It’s amazing to have this trophy in my hands for the 10th time. It’s something impossible to imagine but it happened so I’m super happy and can’t thank my team enough.”
Nadal's triumph on the clay in Rome will install him as the favourite for the French Open where he will be seeking a record-extending 14th title on the fabled clay courts at the Roland Garros stadium.
He is likely to be the third seed at the tournament which starts on 30 May. Depending on the draw, he could meet Djokovic - the world number one - in the semi-finals.
“We played almost three hours of high-quality tennis," said Djokovic. 'Of course I'm disappointed not to win it but at the same time I'm very pleased with the level of tennis that I managed to find in the later stages of this tournament.
"I am starting to feel like I actually want to feel on clay. So I think if I manage to play the way I played against Rafa, I think I have a good chance to go all the way in Paris."
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