Novak Djokovic overcame a slow and sloppy start to take down his arch-rival Rafael Nadal at the Internazional BNL d’Italia today in Rome, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. This is his third title overall in the Italian capital, and the second at the direct expense of Nadal, who was the defending champion.
The first set saw both players a bit tentative, but Nadal got the first break in the third game, and then again in game five to race ahead to a 4-1 lead. Djokovic got one break back in the next game for 2-4, held quickly, and nearly broke Nadal again at 4-3, but the Spaniard fought him off for the hold, and eventually served the set out. Djokovic had 17 unforced errors for the set to Nadal’s 8.
The rest of the match saw a better level from both, and the momentum swung back and forth a few times, though it was the Serbian who found a very high level and rarely saw it drop again. In the second set, Djokovic broke Nadal in his first service game with a laser-like passing shot, and raced quickly to 3-0. In the fifth game of the set, Nadal broke his opponent to put the set back on serve, but was immediately handed the break back by Djokovic, which was all the lead he needed for the remainder of the set.
The world No. 2 broke the No. 1 again in the first game of the deciding set, but Nadal battled for the break back in the sixth game of the set, only to be broken once again in his next service game. With Nadal serving at 3-5, Djokovic broke yet again to regain the Italian title, and move himself within 650 rankings points of taking back the No. 1 spot from Nadal.
Cover Photo (Creative Commons License): Marianne Bevis