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Nadal wins sixth Italian Open, defeating Djokovic in straight sets
Exactly one week from the start of the 2012 French Open, tennis fans in Rome were treated to a rare Monday afternoon battle between defending champion Novak Djokovic and five time winner Rafael Nadal at this year's delayed Italian Open Final. The Spaniard came out on top, with a 7-5, 6-3 straight sets victory over top ranked Serbian.
Edmonton - May 21, 2012 - Exactly one week from the start of the 2012 French Open, tennis fans in Rome were treated to a rare Monday afternoon battle between defending champion Novak Djokovic and five time winner Rafael Nadal at this year's delayed Italian Open Final. After both men were ceremoniously bounced in the early going from the Madrid Open, and its controversial blue clay, the top two players in the world, regardless of ranking, rebounded nicely and found themselves set to face off for the prestigious Italian title on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the weather would not cooperate and these two were forced to wait another day, before renewing their rivalry.
Both men had little trouble in reaching the final, as Nadal easily dismissed fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 7-6, 6-0 to reach the championship match in Rome for the seventh time in eight years. While Djokovic surprisingly had little trouble in taking out the red hot Roger Federer 6-2, 7-6 in the other semi-final to make it four trips to the final in five years for the worlds top ranked player.
The Serb dominated the former number one, throughout 2011 season including his victory over Rafa at the 2012 Australian Open. That made it seven victories in a row over the Spaniard for Novak. All of them in finals, including two on clay and three in Grand Slam events. Total domination...at least until the two met in the final of the Monte-Carlo Masters on April 21st.
Nadal made quick work of Djokovic, 6-3, 6-1, to win his eighth consecutive Monte-Carlo crown and get the monkey off his back against the previously unbeatable Serbian. In Novak's defence, he was dealing with the death of his grandfather during the tournament and did not seem himself in the finals. With that being the case, their pending match in Rome would send a clear message on who is the man to beat, heading into to Roland Garros.
Neither man seemed to be on top of their game to start things off but they managed to stay on serve, with Nadal up 3-2 and Djokovic to serve. After falling behind 0-30, the Serb badly missed an easy overhead to get back in the game and the second seed would go on to earn the first break of serve. In typical Novak fashion, he would break right back to get this back on serve. This looked as though it could be a long afternoon at the Foro Italico.
With set at 4-5 and the Spaniard serving at 30-30, the two were in engrossed in an extended rally that was cut short by a poor call from one of the line judges. Djokovic had managed to work Nadal off the court and had an easy forehand to blast into a wide open court and give him not only a break point but set point as well. The incorrect ruling left the umpire little choice but to overrule the call and force the two to replay the point. Obviously, a tough break for the number one seed but it turned out to be a godsend for the world's top clay court player. Nadal took the next two points to hold serve and promptly broke his rival, winning to brilliant rallies, to suddenly being up 6-5 and placing the outcome of the opening set on his racquet. He would not disappoint, easily holding serve and taking a one set lead.
With the momentum clearly now on Rafa's side, he would break Djokovic again to open the second set and then come back from 0-40 down, saving four break points, to grab an early 2-0 lead. The top seed battled to try and get back into the match but the Spaniard would have none of it. He continued to move Novak from one side of the court to the other, while changing speeds and depositing return after return near or on the baseline. He even received a handful of friendly bounces on his deep returns, leaving Djokovic shaking his head. When Nadal is on his game, it takes a near perfect performance to beat him on any surface but on clay it is frankly impossible.
The straight sets 7-5, 6-3 victory earned Rafa his record sitting sixth Italian Open and clearly makes him the favourite heading into next week's French Open. A tournament Djokovic is looking to win for the first time and not only complete the career Grand Slam but become the first player to hold all four titles at the same time, since the great Rod Laver completed the calender year slam in 1969. He will be hard pressed to earn that title, if Nadal finds his way into yet another final. Nadal has won the Coupe des Mousquetaires six times in seven years and will be looking to pass the great Bjorn Borg for the most French Open titles in the history. For tennis fans everywhere, next week can't come soon enough.
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