The Emperor of Rome. The Clay Master. Le Bete Sauvage. Rafael Nadal is all of the above. The top-ranked Spaniard won his record fourth Rome Masters today, defeating defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (2), 6-2. The title was Nadal’s fifth of the year and 36th of his career, as he improved to 25-1 in clay-court finals. Nadal has now won 30 straight matches on clay and padded his career mark to an astounding 173-14 on the slow stuff. The Spaniard’s last loss on clay was to Juan Carlos Ferrero in his opening round at Rome a year ago. “For sure it’s one of the biggest wins of my career,” Nadal said. “It’s always incredible to win in Rome.” By failing to defend his title, Djokovic will lose the No. 3 ranking to Andy Murray on May 11, when last year’s points drop off. Djokovic has been No. 3 since August 2007. “I had my chances,” said Djokovic, who rallied to beat Roger Federer in the semifinals. “He overcomes the pressure better than me, that’s why he’s the best in the word. But overall, I’m happy with the week.” The 21-year-old Serb’s record dropped to 4-13 against Nadal and 0-8 on clay. Djokovic lost to Nadal in the final at Monte Carlo two weeks ago, but did take a set off the Spaniard. Rome is a key tuneup for the French Open, which begins in three weeks with Nadal the four-time defending champion. Nadal broke serve in the opening game of the match and served for the first set at 5-4, but three straight breaks leveled the contest at 6-6. Djokovic lost control for good in the tiebreak, sending a weak backhand drop-shot into the net on Nadal’s third set point. “That was one of the toughest moments of the match,” Nadal said. “The first point of the tiebreak was for him and I had two chances to serve for the first set and lost both times. But I played the tiebreak well and that was the most important thing.” Nadal sealed the match when he flicked a forehand pass up the line to break Djokovic for the second time in the second set. Djokovic said the fast conditions made it tough for him to handle Nadal’s heavy topspin. “The ball was bouncing really, really high here today and that made my shots really difficult, especially from the backhand side.” Djokovic led 23-19 in winners on Sunday, but committed 40 unforced errors to Nadal’s 22, mostly with his backhand.
Nadal Dethrones Djokovic at Rome Masters
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