Rafael Nadal powers past Novak Djokovic in the Italian Open final, earning a career first landmark over his long time rival

Rafael Nadal.

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Rafael Nadal.
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Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

  • Rafael Nadal powered past Novak Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in the Italian Open final on Sunday.
  • It was the first time a “bagel,” a set won to love, had ever been won in the Nadal – Djokovic rivalry.
  • Djokovic will have been fatigued from finishing a semifinal late on Saturday.
  • But the victory sees Nadal claim much-needed confidence and form ahead of the French Open, the second Grand Slam event of the year, later in the month.
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Rafael Nadal powered past Novak Djokovic in the 2019 Italian Open final on Sunday.

The Spaniard, who sought revenge for how easily the Serb had beaten him in the Australian Open final earlier in the year, served the perfect set in the first.

Nadal did not allow Djokovic time to settle, capitalizing on any fatigue accrued from a three set semifinal against Diego Schwartzman that finished late on Saturday – far later than Nadal’s comfortable two set win over Stefano Tsitsipas earlier in the day.

Living up to his everlasting status as the clay court master above all others on the men’s circuit, Nadal dominated on the Foro Italico court with the trademark strength he gets from his forehand, winning precise winners that got the Rome crowd out from the edge of their seats.

Watch one of Nadal’s first set winners right here:

Nadal cruised to a first set win over Djokovic. At 6-0, it was the first time in their 52 match, 152 set rivalry that a “bagel,” a set won to love, had been scored. And Nadal, who had won three bagel sets earlier in the tourmanent, had done it with ease.

Read more: Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Naomi Osaka retire from Rome, and nobody seems to know if they’ll be fully fit for the French Open

But Djokovic stopped Nadal’s consecutive game-winning run in the second set, eventually winning 6-4 because of a marked increase in the amount of points won on his first serve, limiting Nadal’s success on his own first serve, and getting the better of his old foe in the majority of rallies.

Djokovic smashed his racket in the third set.

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Djokovic smashed his racket in the third set.
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Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

At the beginning of the third set, Djokovic had the opportunity to serve for the lead but squandered it as Nadal broke him. Djokovic, irate, then bounced his racket off the clay surface, mangling one side beyond repair, before going 2-0 down. He’d never catch Nadal again.

Read more: Nick Kyrgios is out of the Italian Open after he threw a chair onto the court, packed his bag, and walked off in the middle of the match

Nadal’s chances of winning the Italian Open title, his first trophy on clay this season, were enhanced in the fifth game of the third set, when he took his chances on his break points to go 4-1 up.

Before long, it was 5-1, then 6-1, as Nadal closed out the set and match in style, winning his ninth title in Rome, and his first in 2019, giving him much-needed confidence, form, and momentum into the second Grand Slam event of the year – the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros later this month.