Updated 05/16/2021 – 20:00
In the most repeated final in the Open Era, up to 29 times if the 2020 ATP Cup is counted, Rafael Nadal has imposed on Novak Djokovic in a battle on the arena of the Foro Italico by 7-5, 1-6 and 6-3.
It is the tenth coronation of the eternal Roman emperor, who equals his great rival in 1000 Masters titles with 36 and hits the table two weeks after the start of the ‘Grand Slam’ of the land. In the French capital you can reaffirm your candidacy for the best tennis player in history if you are not already.
Roland Garros is approaching, things are getting serious and Nadal and Djokovic have taken a step forward. After four consecutive Masters 1,000 finals between members of the ‘Next Gen’, the usual ones are back.
The final in Rome between the Spanish and the Serbian was the longest of the tournament in the Open Era and the second with older players since the TMS category events were established in 1990. It is only surpassed by the duel between Roger Federer and John Isner in the last round of Miami 2019.
‘Nole’ came out to scare and shorten the points to the maximum: his physique was not for flourishes after the four hours and 56 minutes that he left yesterday between the quarters and the semifinals. Three winners gave him the first lead on the scoreboard.
The Serb seemed more plugged in and was noted with three break balls in the second game. Nadal neutralized the first two with a drop and a serve point. But he couldn’t handle the third when he missed a backhand down the doubles hall.
The best tennis player on the planet knew that his options went through a short duel in time and in exchanges. Nadal knew that he could not let the confidence of such a credited rival grow and he returned the break immediately afterwards.
It was the gray day in the Italian capital leaving a heavy surface and causing the ball not to take the effects so much. It is not the same to get Reilly Opelka, who does not subtract anything, than Djokovic. It was experienced by the Spaniard who needed 24 minutes to win with his serve.
Second fall of the tournament
With 3-3, Rafa achieved a ‘break’ point after tripping over a nail that protruded him on the white line. It was the second each of the week in the central field and so he claimed it from the referee Carlos Bernardes. “The lines are incredible, every port gives. We are going to kill each other“, he claimed.
An operator came out with a hammer to better fix the lines and to continue. The king of the earth, with a visible wound, momentarily left the party outraged by the situation that cannot happen in a tournament of the importance of Rome.
The Nadal family, including their uncles Rafael and Miguel ngel, suffered from the stands. His player was two points away from losing the opening set, with 5-4 and 15-30.
The cut backhand, which had given him so much in the last Roland Garros final, was still in the bedroom of the world number three. I didn’t need it to break the final in the eleventh game. There came the second break.
Djokovic’s right shoulder was beginning to strain after so much activity in such a short space of time. He stretched it in the changes where he took the opportunity to seek inner strength. When least expected, Nadal got entangled with the serve and his opponent took advantage of it to add five games of the pull that signed the tables. If there is a tennis player who knows and exploits the weak points of the manacor, it is Novak.
Marian Vajda’s pupil can read where Rafa’s shots go even before the hit. The serves of his rival traveled at 170 kilometers per hour and the Serbian pressed from the return.
Djokovic missed two ‘break’ options in the fifth round of the tiebreaker. It was a turning point because the champion took a step forward. He went from 2-3 for the Belgrade tennis player to 5-2. ‘Nole’ saved the first match point in the eighth game with a second serve at 180 kilometers per hour. Later a setback escaped him, which was the sentence.
Nadal wins again in Rome, but he already knows that he will have tough competition to lift the Paris Musketeers Cup for the fourteenth time.