Nadal beats Djokovic to win 10th Italian Open title

Rafael Nadal battled past Novak Djokovic in three sets to win his 10th Italian Open title on Sunday.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal celebrates beating Novak Djokovic to win the Italian Open on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

Rafael Nadal defeated world number one Novak Djokovic to win a 10th Italian Open title on Sunday.

Second seed Nadal won through 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in 2hr 49min against the defending champion to match Djokovic's record of 36 Masters 1000 titles and lay down a key marker two weeks out from the defence of his Roland Garros crown.

"I really wanted this title. This had been one of the first important titles I won in my career. I'd won 10 in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros and really wanted this one too," said 34-year-old Nadal.

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- Djokovic v Nadal: Chapter 57 -

Djokovic and Nadal were facing each other for the 57th time, having last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won easily in straight sets.

The pair have won 15 of the last 17 Rome titles between them, while Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 4-2.

Despite losing his opening service game Nadal broke back in the third game hitting twice as many winners as the Serb with 21 in the set.

A dip in form in the second set allowed Djokovic, 33, to break twice and get back into the game.

But Nadal got back on track in the third with Djokovic having played nearly five hours on court on Saturday between his rain-delayed quarter-finals and semi-final matches.

The Spaniard saved two break points on his serve in the fifth game and broke for love for 4-2.

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Djokovic saved a first match point in the eighth game but Nadal made no mistake on his second chance in the following to seal his 88th career title after winning in Barcelona earlier this month.

"I'm disappointed not to win, but pleased with my level," said five-time Rome winner Djokovic, who leads their overall head-to-head 29-28.

"Going into Paris it's a good sensation. I feel like I want to feel on clay."

The French Open gets underway in Paris on May 30 where 13-time champion Nadal will be chasing a record 21st Grand Slam title.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion at Roland Garros, will be hoping to become the first man in over half a century and just the third in history to win all four majors more than once.

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