Djokovic beats Nadal for Italian title

Sunday, May 18, 2014
ROME -- Novak Djokovic extended his recent dominance over Rafael Nadal by rallying for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory Sunday to win the Italian Open for the third time -- then dedicated the title to his flood-hit native Serbia.

Having also been beaten in Monte Carlo and Barcelona recently, it marked the first time in a decade that the top-ranked Nadal has lost more than two matches on clay in the same year.

Djokovic carved a heart on the clay with his racket to celebrate his title.

"This heart on the court is for you," he told the fans in Italian during the victory celebration. "It's also a special dedication to my country, which is suffering a lot right now. My heart is with them."

Authorities say 25 people have died in the Balkans because of the worst flooding in a century after three months' worth of rain fell on the region in three days this week. Tens of thousands of homes were left without electricity or drinking water.

"I'm trying to contribute in my own way," Djokovic said. "These are very critical times for our country and our people. But we're being united and this win and this trophy is dedicated to them."

Having also been beaten in Monte Carlo and Barcelona recently, it marked the first time in a decade that the top-ranked Nadal has lost more than two matches on clay in the same year.

Nadal was pushed to three sets in four out of his five matches here.

"When he hit the first ball good a lot of times it was very difficult to arrive to the ball and change the dynamic of the point," Nadal said. "I didn't have enough energy to hit the first shot with the right intensity."

The second-ranked Djokovic has now won four straight matches against Nadal -- the previous three in straight sets -- and takes the psychological edge into the French Open, which starts next weekend.

"It gives me a lot of confidence winning against Rafa in the finals of a big tournament on clay," he said. "It's definitely a confidence booster. It's an ultimate challenge and I'm very happy with my game so far and hopefully I can carry that into Roland Garros."

Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam that Djokovic has yet to win, with his best result a runner-up finish in 2012. Nadal has won the French Open eight times.

Djokovic's other Rome titles came in 2008 and 2011.

Midway through the final set, Djokovic earned a decisive break as Nadal made several uncharacteristic errors, and then broke again to close it out.

In the final game, Djokovic blasted a backhand cross-court return winner right by Nadal, before a backhand from the Spaniard sailed long on the second match point.

Djokovic, who sat out last week's Madrid Open due to a right wrist injury, hit 46 winners to Nadal's 15, while the unforced errors column was nearly even with Djokovic committing 30 and Nadal 27.

Djokovic's serve was also a factor. He hit six aces while Nadal had none.

Djokovic was able to dictate play by stepping inside the baseline.

"I tried to be aggressive from the start to the end," said Djokovic, whose other Rome titles came in 2008 and 2011. "I know that the only way to win against him is to be aggressive."

Nadal was pushed to three sets in four out of his five matches here.

"It was a difficult week," the Spaniard said. "Too many hours on the court."

Related Video
Djokovic Claims Italian Title
Djokovic Claims Italian Title
Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win the Italian Open for the third time.
Center Court: Djokovic Tops Nadal For Italian Open Title
Center Court: Djokovic Tops Nadal For Italian Open Title
ESPN.com's Greg Garber discusses Novak Djokovic's win against Rafael Nadal in the Italian Open final and the implications of a Nadal loss on clay.
Related Topics:
sports espn djoker novak djokovic rafael nadal clay court tennis italian open
(Copyright ©2014 ESPN Internet Ventures.)

Load Comments