Rafael Nadal Beats Alexander Zverev to Win 2018 Italian Open Final

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IMay 20, 2018

TOPSHOT - Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts during the Men's final against Germany's Alexander Zverev at Rome's ATP Tennis Open tournament at the Foro Italico, on May 20, 2018 in Rome. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/Getty Images

Top seed Rafael Nadal survived a scare in the final of the 2018 Italian Open on Sunday as he needed three sets to beat Alexander Zverev.

Nadal won the first 6-1, but Zverev hit back to take the second by the same score and was up a break in the decider.

The match was interrupted by a rain delay that clearly helped Nadal, as he came back out and broke twice to clinch the third set 6-3.

Zverev made the perfect start to the match as he put pressure on Nadal's first service game and converted his third break point courtesy of a backhand error by the Spaniard.

Yet his delight was short-lived as Nadal hit back instantly, breaking the German at love to level up the match.

Nadal started moving through the gears as he broke Zverev twice more to take a 5-1 lead with some sublime tennis.

Tennis TV showed just how well he was playing:

Nadal went on to clinch the first set 6-1 and looked on course to cruise to victory. Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times noted how dominant he was:

However, the second set was a different story. Zverev held serve and then broke Nadal as the Spaniard netted a backhand passing shot.

The momentum was suddenly with Zverev, while errors started to creep into Nadal's game. A brilliant backhand down the line from the German gave him a double break and a 4-0 lead.

Nadal did manage to avoid being bagelled as he pulled a game back to make it 5-1 but could not prevent Zverev from taking the set.

Stuart Fraser at The Times felt it was Nadal's worst set on clay in many years:

Zverev had break points in the opening game of the deciding set, and Nadal needed all of his fighting qualities to save the first two. However, the pressure told eventually as the German converted with his third break point of the game as Nadal put a volley wide.

Christopher Clarey of the New York Times showed where Zverev was having success:

Zverev held serve to move into a 2-0 lead and make it eight games out of nine for the 21-year-old, as noted by Rothenberg:

Nadal finally stopped the rot at 2-1, but play was then interrupted at 3-1 by rain. The players emerged long enough for Nadal to hold serve for 3-2 before the covers came on again.

This time there was a substantial delay, and it helped Nadal as he came out and broke back immediately to make it 3-3.

Suddenly Nadal was back to his best, and he broke again before serving out the match to clinch his eighth title in Rome.

The win will also return him to the No. 1 spot in the world, as noted by journalist Jose Morgado:

It was an impressive comeback from Nadal, who looked incredibly shaky before the rain delay but then won all four games after it to seal the win.

The Spaniard will head to the 2018 French Open once again the outstanding favourite to win, but Zverev deserves credit for his performance and will be a threat at Roland Garros.

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