Defending champion and world no.1 Novak Djokovic lost to 2nd-seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal 5-7, 3-6 in 2 hours and 20 minutes on Monday in a rematch of their championship clash from last year.
We saw brilliant tennis in the first game from both players, with several long rallies. Novak saved two break points before taking the lead. Nadal managed to break him in the fifth game, but the Serbian broke back immediately to level at 3-3. The Spaniard was serving to stay in the set at 5-4 for Nole and 30-all, when a point in which Djokovic dominated was stopped when a line umpire made a wrong call. From that moment Novak lost five games in a row.
Nadal took the opening set 7-5 in 76 minutes. He made a break already at the beginning of the second set and consolidated it to establish a 2-0 lead. Nole had two break point opportunities in the fourth game, but could not convert them. He was broken once again in the ninth game, and the 25-year-old Manacor native sealed the set and match 6-3.
“He is the best player in the world on this surface, and the two wins I had gave me confidence. I think that the match today was quite close, even if he won in straight sets,” Novak said in his post match interview. “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. It’s been a good week and he deserved to win. “
Match statistics: aces (1-0), double faults (4-0), winners (22-15), unforced errors (41-21), total points won (67-76).
This was Nole’s 20th ATP Masters 1000 final (11-9 mark). He was trying to capture his third title in Rome (2008 and 2011).
Nadal now leads their overall head-to-head series, 18-14, including 11-2 on clay.
Nole, who turns 25 on Tuesday, will next play at the second Grand Slam of the season, Roland Garros, taking place in Paris from May 27 to June 10.
Rafael Nadal is the defending champion. Last year, Novak reached semi-finals where Roger Federer ended his remarkable 43-match winning streak.
Novak will look to win the French Open and become the first man since Rod Laver (in 1969) to win four straight majors.
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