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Nadal Captures Record-Equalling 17th Masters 1000 Trophy

Rome, Italy

© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal clinches his fifth Rome title in six years.

World No. 3 Rafael Nadal won a record-equalling 17th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title Sunday when he overcame fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2 in a rain-hit final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.

At the age of just 23, Nadal has drawn level with the retired Andre Agassi, who has held the record of 17 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles since winning his last of the coveted shields in Cincinnati in 2004, aged 34. Roger Federer is in second place with 16 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles.

"I am 23 and sure 17 is a very important number for me," said Nadal. "There are some tournaments coming up – Madrid is coming up soon – and so I'm going to try to keep winning, but these tournaments are very difficult and some of the best players in the world are there."

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Nadal won his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the age of 18, when he defeated Guillermo Coria in the 2005 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters final. Two weeks ago he became the first player in the Open Era to win a tournament title for six straight years when he crushed Fernando Verdasco in Monte-Carlo to claim his 16th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. Overall in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 action, he has compiled a 175-35 match record and has a 17-6 mark in finals.

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As the winner, Nadal received 1000 South African Airways 2010 ATP Ranking points and €434,000, while Ferrer, who finished runner-up in his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final, earned 600 ranking points and €203,000 in prize money.

With two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles to his name already in 2010, Nadal has made a strong early claim for a place in the elite eight-man field at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 21-28 November.

"The important thing is that I won a very important tournament and finally I am very happy," said Nadal. "Probably I didn't play as well as Monte Carlo. I played well, but not as well as Monte Carlo, but the important thing is winning."

Watch Post Match Interviews: Nadal | Ferrer

In his post-match interview after defeating Fernando Verdasco in the semi-finals Saturday, Ferrer said his game plan against Nadal would be to play “very aggressively” and the high-risk tactic from the Valencia resident made for a very competitive first set in the pair’s 14th meeting.

The score was level at 4-4 in the first set when the light drizzle that had been a constant accompaniment fell harder and play was suspended for the first time. On the resumption, Ferrer held for a 5-4 lead before putting Nadal under pressure with a 30-0 lead on his Davis Cup teammate’s serve. With the confidence of a 10-3 career lead over Ferrer, though, Nadal quickly turned the situation around, holding serve before converting his sixth break point chance on the Ferrer serve for a 6-5 lead.

Aggressive play off Nadal’s second serve earned Ferrer his only break point of the match as the No. 3 seed served for the set, but the left-hander quickly alleviated the threat with a swinging serve out wide and went on to close out the one-set lead.

Looking to build on his lead as the weather began to worsen once more, Nadal took advantage as Ferrer went for too much in his bid to dictate the points and as the right-hander over-hit a backhand, Nadal secured a 2-1 lead.

At that point, play was once again halted due to rain and it was over an hour and a half later before the players were called back to court to finish the match. Keen to not delay any longer, Nadal went for yet more aggression when play resumed and the pressure told on Ferrer in the seventh game. Two double faults from the right-hander proved costly as Nadal clinched a 5-2 lead and, ruthless as ever, Nadal quickly sealed victory on serve after one hour and 44 minutes.

"After the rain, the court was slower and of course Rafa is in form, especially in difficult moments and it's difficult to beat him," said Ferrer. "But I was pleased with my game."

Nadal won the Rome title for the fifth time, having previously triumphed in 2005-2007 and last year with victory over Novak Djokovic in the final. He holds a 27-1 event record. Throughout the week, Nadal held serve 49 of 50 games and saved 15 of 16 break points. The only player to break his serve was Latvian Ernests Gulbis, who pushed Nadal to three sets in the semi-finals.

World No. 17 Ferrer, who leads the ATP World Tour with a 23-4 clay-court mark in 2010, was bidding for his second title of the season. During the Latin American “Golden Swing” in February he finished runner-up to Juan Carlos Ferrero in the Buenos Aires final, before avenging that defeat a week later with victory in Acapulco. He came into Rome on the strength of back-to-back semi-final showings in Monte-Carlo (l. to Nadal) and at the Barcelona Open BancSabadell (l. to Verdasco).

"This is the first time with a Masters 1000 final in Rome and I am happy with that," said Ferrer. "I am happy with my season this year; it is important for me and for my confidence for my next tournaments."

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