Rome 2012 Final Preview: Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic, Battle for the Throne
Coming into this tournament on the back of an early-round exit at his home tournament in Madrid and losing his No. 2 ranking to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal had one thing and one thing only on his mind.
Of any and everything put in front of him. Convincing wins against Florian Mayer and Tomas Berdych, led to his semifinal match with David Ferrer. Despite a slow start and going a break down to Ferrer, Nadal roared back taking the first set to a tiebreak, winning the tiebreak and bagel-ing Ferrer in the second.
It's hasn't been particularly easy to grade Nadal's performances in this tournament. For every time he has looked scintillating, the feeling has always been that a better opponent could make him look a little more ordinary. The argument, I guess, is that one can only beat what's in front of them.
Generally, Nadal is in a good place. In the last four tournaments he's played including Rome, he's only been taken to three sets once and he's so far won two of those tournaments.
Pretty good numbers.
So much of the Novak Djokovic's 2012 season has been about trying to live up to the standards he set in 2011 and when he meets Rafael Nadal tomorrow it will be no different.
With the majority of the general consensus sharing the opinion that Djokovic's level had dropped in the past few months, many touted Roger Federer to join Nadal in the final. However, Djokovic had other ideas. The Serb's performance against Federer was both clinical and ruthless.
One of the best I'd seen of him in the past few weeks, Djokovic couldn't be meeting Nadal in much better circumstances. With the loss at Monte Carlo Masters at the start of the clay court season, many believed that Nadal had gained inroads back into the head-to-head, having lost seven times in a row to Novak prior to that meeting.
Heading into the French Open, defeating Nadal is not simply necessary for the Rome Masters title, it's necessary so as to once again leave it beyond doubt that he sits on the throne.
A win for Novak Djokovic will herald the second coming of Djokovic 2.0, as the Serbian is now known, while a win for Rafael Nadal will do even more to reinforce in the mind of the Spaniard that he has successfully bucked his trend of losing to the Serb.
As I always say, stick with the girl you brought to the dance. I picked Nadal to win at the start of the week and I'll stick to that.
Who will be the winner?
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