Since 2004, Rafa Nadal has been rightly dubbed as the King of Clay. However, 2019 was proving to be a difficult year of the red dirt for the great Spaniard. He had come to Rome without a title in hand, first time since 2004.
World No 2 Nadal, however, reversed a tide in the same dominant fashion that the tennis world is familiar with him. He played a week long imperious tennis in the Italian Capital and finally lifted his 9th Rome Masters title. The Spaniard made another history by taking his Masters 1000 tally to 34, one ahead on Novak Djokovic’s 33.
World No 2 Nadal’s Road To The Final
In the course of his 11th final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rafa was nothing but dominant throughout the whole week. In his 1st and 2nd match against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy and the Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, Nadal dropped only 1 game each. He also served out 1 bagel (6-0) in each of the two matches, completing each match quickly in just an hour’s time.
In the Quarterfinal, Nadal faced his compatriot Fernando Verdasco. The later was also in great form and had already dispatched two tournament favourites, Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov.
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However, World No 2 Nadal was too hungry in Rome to be stopped at the Quarterfinals. He went past Verdasco in straight sets again. Nadal was omniscient in the 2nd set, serving out anther bagel, his 3rd of the tournament.
Nadal had another semifinal date with Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek sensation had cut short Nadal’s Madrid journey a week earlier. However, in Rome, the Spaniard had come with a renewed vigor and he showed Tsitsipas the exit route in straight sets.
Nadal was much more aggressive against Tsitsipas in Rome than he was in Madrid. He shots penetrated Tsitsipas’s baseline tirelessly and he denied the Greek the chances to come forward to the net regularly.
Facing World No 1 Djokovic In The Final
In a battle of Gladiators, World No 2 Nadal faced World Number 1 Novak Djokovic for the 54th time in his Career in the Rome final. The two had already met in January in the Australian Open final, where Djokovic dispatched Nadal in three straight sets.
The Rome final was also supposed to be a tightly contested affair. The 1st set however proved to be an anti-climax with Nadal serving out another 6-0 bagel. It was the 1st time in 54 matches between Nadal and Djokovic that a bagel was served.
The match looked to be a one-sided affair but in the 2nd set Djokovic regrouped and began to play much better tennis.
Though Nadal was the dominant player in this set also but he failed to convert a number of break-point chances. At 5-4, Rafa served out an error prone game handed Novak the crucial break and the set.
In the 3rd set, Nadal was again more ruthless and more dominant. Though, Djokovic was making much more unforced errors and struggling with his shots than usual but Rafa at this level was nearly unstoppable. He took the 3rd set 5-1 and thus lifted his 9th trophy in the Italian Capital.
The win at Rome will be a great shot in the arm for Nadal’s historic journey towards a 12th title at Roland Garros. He now moves to Paris as odds on favourite again with renewed confidence and rediscovered form.