Coming to the final after playing three grueling matches at the Rome Masters, The King of Clay was a tired man. That he was facing world’s no.2 tennis player was not going to offer him any respite. Regardless, Rafael Nadal took the first set 6-4 from Novak Djokovic. Watching two of the best tennis players of the modern era, taking on each other in the Italian Open final, would have been a great treat for the spectators and television viewers alike. In the next two sets, the Serbian turned the tables on the defending champion to win the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 and register his name for the third time amongst the celebrated list of winners in the Italian Open championship. On clay surfaces, it was Djokovic’s fourth victory over Nadal, who has beaten him in the other 13 meetings. On an overall head-to-head record, however, Nadal still leads Djokovic 41-19. After his first set loss, Djokovic raised his games several notches and dominated Nadal with such precision that the Spaniard had no option but to keep defending most times. When the match ended, Djokovic had produced 46 winners to a mere 15 from Nadal. 2014 has not been favorable to Nadal so far and the Rome Masters was his third loss on clay this season after compatriot David Ferrer defeated him at Monte Carlo Masters and Nicolas Almagro beat him in Barcelona.
The seven time Rome Masters champion had come into the final by brushing aside Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-2 in the semi-finals; but earlier, he had played a tough quarterfinal match against Britain’s Andy Murray. The British number one dictated terms in the first set of the quarterfinal to begin solidly with a 6-1 win. Nadal, however, retaliated to square things up by winning the second set 6-3. In a high quality third set, both Murray and Nadal played great tennis and it became difficult to predict the winner until the final game. Nadal, however, held his nerves and won the final set 7-5. After his loss to Djokovic, Nadal admitted that his legs moved slowly after some tough matches in the tournament. Other than the quarterfinal with Murray, Nadal’s first match with Gilles Simon lasted 3 hours and 19 minutes and turned out to be the longest three-set match of the season. Nadal had another long match against the Russian Mikhail Youzhny, before coming through 6-7, 6-2, 6-1. Even Djokovic had a tough semifinal game against Canadian Milos Raonic. Djokovic and Raonic traded tiebreaks in the first two sets before the Serbian beat the Canadian 6-3 in the final set. From Rome, the players will travel to Roland Garros in Paris, where the French Open begins on May 25. Rafael Nadal is on record to have won the French Open on an amazing eight occasions, whereas Djokovic would be looking for his first title.
The women’s title at Rome was won by defending champion Serena Williams, who proved too strong for Italian Sara Errani. Much to the chagrin of the partisan crowd, which got too vocal at times, Serena easily beat Errani 6-3, 6-0. It was Serena’s 60th WTA title, though she has not won any other Clay-court tournament this season. Despite her loss, Errani was the first Italian to enter the Rome Masters final since 1985. The victory at Rome could work as morale booster for Serena, whose next task would be defending her French Open title in Roland Garros next week.
The men’s doubles final was won by the Canadian/Serbian pair of Daniel Nestor and Zimonjic, Nenad, who beat Robin Haase of Netharlands and Feliciani Lopez of Spain 6-4, 7-6. In the women’s doubles final, however, Kveta Peschke of Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia had it rather easy against the Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who retired mid-way in the first set and gifted the match to the Czech/Slovenian girls.
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