The ‘king of clay’ Rafael Nadal defeated defending champion Novak Djokovic on Sunday to secure his fourth Rome Masters title in five years.
The world number one beat the Serb 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 in a victory that extends his impressive unbeaten run on clay.
The first set was a tense affair in which Nadal failed to capitalise on two set points. Frustration seemed to get the better of Djokovic however, as he smashed his racquet when he failed to hold his serve after breaking the Spaniard in the previous game. Nadal dominated the resulting tie-break 7-2 to take the first set.
Djokovic looked constantly frustrated as Nadal failed to back down in long rallies where the Serb initially looked to have the upper-hand. He received a code violation warning for breaking his racquet late in the second set.
The final set saw Nadal storm ahead, powering to a 6-2 victory and wining the match after breaking the Serb in the final game.
Speaking after his victory Nadal said: “For sure it’s one of the biggest wins of my career. It’s always incredible to win in Rome.”
“The first point of the tie-break was for him and I had two chances to serve for the first set and lost both times, but I played the tie-break well and that was the most important thing.”
The world number one’s formidable record on his favourite surface continues. The last time Nadal lost on clay was 30 matches ago in Rome last year when he was defeated early on by Juan Carlos Ferrero. Djokovic then went on to win the title.
Despite losing, Djokovic was in high enough spirits to entertain the crowd after the match by performing one of his now infamous impersonations, this one was of Nadal. And even the Spainard could afford to smile.
For Djokovic though, the defeat means that he will lose his number three spot in the world rankings to Andy Murray on May 11. The next Masters tournament begins in Madrid on May 10.
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news