22 May 2012 /REUTERS/AP
Rafael Nadal enjoyed the perfect fillip ahead of his French Open defence by downing world number one Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-3 in the delayed Rome Masters final, saving his most impressive display of the tournament to last.
Beaten surprisingly early on Madrid’s blue clay earlier this month, the 25-year-old Spaniard has been back to his destructive best on the red dirt at the Foro Italico and blew away his one-time bogeyman. Both players refused to budge an inch in a brutal 76-minute opener but Serb Djokovic, who memorably beat Nadal in straight sets in last year’s final, faded and the match ended in anti-climax when he double-faulted to gift Nadal a record sixth Rome title. ”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,” Nadal said. “I will have this trophy in my bedroom. It is a dream. I have confidence I am playing well and this comes when I play at the right level. Hopefully I will keep playing like this.” Six-time French Open champion Nadal’s victory means he will rise back to second in the world rankings after being overtaken by Roger Federer last week -- a significant move ahead of Roland Garros where he will now definitely be in the opposite half of the draw to Djokovic.