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Rafael Nadal Beats Novak Djokovic to Win 2021 Italian Open Final

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVMay 16, 2021

FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images

Rafael Nadal is the champion at the Rome Masters for the 10th time in his career after a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 win over Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.

Tennis Channel @TennisChannel

10th title in Rome. 🏆@RafaelNadal gets the job done, defeating Djokovic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 to become the #IBI21 champion. pic.twitter.com/PcMaTNK4Bd

It was the 57th all-time match between the superstars and the sixth in the finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, a clay-court event dominated by this duo over the past 20 years.

Nadal came out victorious this time around and is now 28-29 in his career against Djokovic.

The win also gave the No. 3 player in the world his second title in 2021 after winning at Barcelona last month.

Sunday's match began with a close back-and-forth battle that was much different than Nadal's straight-set victory in the 2020 Roland Garros final when they last met.

The two players seemingly got to everything on the court during a first set that lasted an hour and 15 minutes.

Tennis TV @TennisTV

Sharp mind, @DjokerNole! ⚡️#IBI21 pic.twitter.com/JXBY76coad

Tennis Channel @TennisChannel

OMG Rafa. 😮@RafaelNadal tumbles, but he gets the break point! Who else is watching the first set?<br><br>Stream live → https://t.co/tPoe44TDv0#IBI21 pic.twitter.com/xdzaiiGVuc

ATP Tour @atptour

Nothing separating Djokovic &amp; Nadal so far 🚫<br><br>3-3 in the first set. Djokovic with 20 points won, Nadal with 19. #IBI21

Nadal finally got a key break after a 5-5 tie, winning the first set on his serve one game later.

Tennis Channel @TennisChannel

Djokovic-Nadal has now happened every year since 2006. 😱@RafaelNadal is conquering the clay, stopping the world No. 1 in the first set claiming it, 7-5.<br><br>Stream live → https://t.co/tPoe44TDv0<br> #IBI21 pic.twitter.com/fTnY4m8Qhp

It was a completely different story in the second set, however, as Djokovic bounced back with a dominant 6-1 victory.

Tennis Channel @TennisChannel

Djokovic wrestles his way back. 💪@DjokerNole the defending champion steals the second set claiming it, 6-1.<br><br>Stream live → https://t.co/tPoe44TDv0#IBI21 pic.twitter.com/OoNcKjwffc

Saša Ozmo @ozmo_sasa

Djokovic takes the second set 6-1. More free points on serve, managed to keep Nadal more in BH corner, and some uncharacteristic errors from Rafa. <br><br>Big one-two from Novak at BP (1-1), something we haven’t see often today.

Djokovic was more accurate with his serve while also winning 57 percent of return points in the set, including going 6-of-9 against the second serve.

It all came down to the decisive third set and a few games that helped determine the match.

After a 2-2 start, Nadal survived two break points in the fifth game for a key hold before taking over the momentum. He broke Djokovic to love in the sixth game and never looked back.

Tennis TV @TennisTV

Just. Too. Good.@RafaelNadal #IBI21 pic.twitter.com/GHcTkHWoNh

José Morgado @josemorgado

Nadal won 12 of the last 13 points.<br><br>Leads Djokovic 5-2 in the 3rd.

The Spanish star eventually closed out the win with his serve a few games later for yet another impressive victory on clay.

ATP Tour @atptour

Nadal's Clay-Court Mastery 🙌<br><br>✅ 62 titles<br>✅ 459-42 career record<br>✅ 81-match win streak (2005-2007)<br>✅ 0 losing streaks@InteBNLdItalia | #IBI21

Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg

Easy to take for granted Nadal’s ability to peak for the business and of the clay season every dang year…but it’s heckin’ impressive.

Regardless of the outcome in the final, both players showed throughout the tournament why they remain top contenders for every big event on the calendar. Even as the next generation tries to break through with more championships, Djokovic, 33, and Nadal, 34, continue to thrive when it matters most.

With Roland Garros two weeks away, it will be hard to pick anyone else to win the second Grand Slam of the year.

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