RAFA Nadal warmed up for the French Open with a battling (7-5, 1-6, 6-3) win over world number one Novak Djokovic as the Spaniard claimed a record-extending 10th Italian Open title in Rome on Sunday in the latest chapter of their rivalry.
After a mid-match wobble, Nadal turned up the heat in the decisive moments of his 57th meeting with top seed Djokovic — the pair’s ninth in Rome — to secure the victory over the defending champion in two hours and 49 minutes.
Nadal broke to go ahead 6-5 in a tight opening set and staved off a late comeback attempt from Djokovic to take the early advantage in the contest with a searing inside-out forehand that caught the Serbian off guard.
Second seed Nadal then saved two break points at 2-2 in the decider and fired an emphatic shot down the line to hold, before switching gears to complete the win and match Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles. — Reuters