Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal met each other in the finals to set up their 41st career meeting. This time, it was Djokovic who came out victorious at the 2014 Rome Masters on Sunday.
After missing Madrid due to injury, Djokovic overcame four three-set matches to win his third title here.
Nadal did not cruise through his half of the draw either. Only his win over Grigor Dimitrov came in straight sets.
Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka combined to win just one match.
This could be a sign that the field is closing the gap on the top players in the world.
Here are the takeaways from the week in Rome.
The Swiss Fall Early
Both Federer and Wawrinka had short stays in Rome.
Wawrinka was able to win his first match, but then he fell to Tommy Haas in his second match.
Federer came in just a week after the birth of his second set of twins, so tennis may not have been the main thing on his mind.
The conditions were also very windy, which has affected his game in the past. According to ATPWorldTour.com, here is what Federer had to say on the conditions after his loss to Jeremy Chardy:
"The conditions were the same for all the players today, sure, it makes it difficult to have a proper game plan, or execute the way you want. Clearly, you're not going to take as many risks, you're just trying to put shots in play, rather than really go for it."
Both players are taking this week off to get ready for Roland Garros. They will be the top contenders behind Rafa and Djokovic.
Young Guns Make Deep Runs
It was a great showing for Milos Raonic and Dimitrov in Rome. The pair of 23-year-olds both made it to the semifinals.
Dimitrov has had success on clay, but this was his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal. He had a great win over Tomas Berdych in his second match. Dimitrov didn't play his best tennis against Nadal, but that should not take away from the great week he had here.
The Canadian hasn't had much success on clay in his career, but he is clearly improving with a semifinal showing here and a quarterfinal appearance in Monte Carlo.
The key for Raonic is his great serve. According to ATPWorldtour.com, Djokovic really praised Raonic's play, "He played at a high level, especially on his serve, and I cannot recall the last time when I felt so helpless in the return games. I couldn't really read his serve."
Neither has ever reached the fourth round at the French Open. However, there is a good chance both men will be able to advance past the third round this year.
Djokovic Beats Nadal in the Final
After missing Madrid with an injury, Djokovic returned with great form to win in Rome. His post-match interview is above. He has now beaten Nadal four times in a row, and this one was particularly devastating for Nadal.
Not only was it on Nadal's best surface, but he also took the first set. Credit to Djokovic for battling back after dropping the first.
According to ATPWorldTour.com, here is what Djokovic had to say after the match:
"I had to come back from one set down yesterday against Raonic and today again. That gives me a lot of confidence. Winning against Rafa in the final of a big tournament on clay, his preferred surface, is definitely a confidence booster."
Nadal has not been playing his best tennis during the clay-court season, and he does not have an answer for Djokovic at the moment. He is losing his hold on the No. 1 ranking and his head-to-head edge.
With the win here, Djokovic is the favorite at the French Open. Nadal has the past history at the French Open, but Djokovic has been playing better and has the mental edge over Nadal right now.
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