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Nadal Beats Djokovic For Sixth Rome Crown

Rome, Italy

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal won the Rome trophy for the sixth time.

Rafael Nadal will return to World No. 2 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings after winning the Internazionali BNL d’Italia title for the sixth time on Monday in Rome. In a re-match of the 2011 final, the Spaniard defeated World No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-3 after rain had washed out play on Sunday.

The 25-year-old Nadal lifted the trophy at the Foro Italico for the sixth time, following triumphs in 2005-2007 and 2009-2010. Victory also marked a record-breaking 21st ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown for Nadal. The Spaniard had broken new territory with victory at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in April, before Roger Federer drew level with success at the Mutua Madrid Open last week.

Federer’s victory in Madrid had also seen Nadal displaced as World No. 2 as the Swiss returned to the Top 2 for the first time since the week of 14 March, 2011. It means Djokovic and Nadal will be seeded Nos. 1 and 2 at next week’s Roland Garros.

"I am happy that I won in Rome without losing a set against the best players in the world like [Tomas] Berdych and [David] Ferrer and Djokovic," said Nadal. "I will have this trophy in my bedroom. It is a dream. [I have] the confidence I am playing well and this comes when I play at the right level. Hopefully I will keep playing like this."

Nadal now goes into Roland Garros, where he will attempt to lift the trophy for the seventh time, with a 16-1 record on clay this season. He has been victorious in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona (d. Ferrer) and now in Rome, while his lone defeat came in Madrid at the hands of Fernando Verdasco.

After losing seven times in a row against Djokovic between the 2011 Indian Wells final and this year’s Australian Open title match, Nadal has now beaten the Serb twice. He stopped the run of defeats with a straight-sets victory in Monte-Carlo and leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 18-14.

Djokovic was under immediate pressure from Nadal below brighter skies at the Foro Italico on Monday. The Serb saved two break points in his opening service game before Nadal converted his fourth opportunity to lead 3-2. Djokovic immediately recovered the service break, but was broken by Nadal again in the 11th game, after a scintillating exchange at the net, and the Spaniard sealed the opener.

Nadal was quick to capitalise on his momentum, taking advantage of an increased unforced error count by Djokovic and dominating from the baseline as he broke in the first game of the second set. Djokovic squandered four break back points in the following game, and another in the fourth game, before surrendering the match in the ninth game after two hours and 20 minutes with his fourth double fault.

The 24-year-old Djokovic was bidding to win the Rome title for the third time, following victories in 2008 (d. Wawrinka) and 2011. He also finished runner-up to Nadal in the 2009 finale. The Belgrade native has captured two tour-level titles this season, retaining his crowns at the Australian Open and Miami (d. Murray), and goes into Roland Garros with a 30-5 match record.

"He is always the favourite, even if I win against him seven times; he is the best player in the world on this surface," said Djokovic. "I think that the match today was quite close, even if he won in straight sets. If you don’t use the opportunities against Rafa he gets momentum. I made a lot of errors which should not happen when you play against Nadal. I will go to Paris with confidence and I played a great week."

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