In a match featuring numerous swings of momentum, Novak Djokovic bested Rafael Nadal in three hard-fought sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to capture the Italian Open Final in Rome.
Nadal rocketed out to a two break advantage in the first set before Djokovic began to find his rhythm – breaking Nadal in the sixth game and holding his own serve – to make it a competitive set at 4-3 in favor of Nadal. In the eighth game, Djokovic appeared ready for another break of service as he jumped out to a love-40 lead but four uncharacteristic errors allowed Nadal to force deuce and eventually hold serve for a 5-3 lead.
Nadal would serve out the set in the 10th game for the early match lead.
Djokovic, who sprayed 17 errors in the first set, continued to apply pressure and control the backcourt rallies and when he pounded a 30-30 crosscourt backhand winner and a forehand passing shot, he had broken Nadal in the second game and led 2-0 in the second set.
Nadal would storm back with a break to close the Serbian star’s lead to 3-2 but Djokovic would steady the ship and hold serve three more times to even the match at one set apiece.
The momentum at his back helped Djokovic commence the third set with a break of service and upon consolidating the break with a hold, he lead 2-0 in the third set.
Nadal held two break points at 15-40 in the sixth game and when he hit a sizzling backhand down the line, forcing a half-volley and an easy winner – the match was tied 3-3 in the third set.
Djokovic answered in the seventh game with a forehand winner and after a Nadal forehand went wide, he lead 30-0. Djokovic would break serve after Nadal misfired on two forehands.
Djokovic held at love with three winners and a service ace. He now lead 5-3. In the ninth game, Nadal faced match point when Djokovic hit two more backhand winners for a 15-40 lead. Nadal saved one match point before sending a backhand long.
The victory was Djokovic’s third in Rome and his 19th Masters 1000 title. The two will be decided favorites to meet in the French Open Final which commences next weekend.