Italian Open 2019: Rafael Nadal Dominates Novak Djokovic to Win Final

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIMay 19, 2019

Rafael Nadal of Spain poses with the trophy after winning against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their ATP Masters tournament final tennis match at the Foro Italico in Rome on May 19, 2019. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)        (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal successfully retained his Italian Open title on Sunday by beating top seed Novak Djokovic in three sets in Rome.

The Spaniard powered through the first set in just 38 minutes, handing the world No. 1 a bagel for the first time in 142 sets between the two players:

ATP Media Info @ATPMediaInfo

.@RafaelNadal wins opening set 6-0 vs @DjokerNole in @InteBNLdItalia. It is the first bagel in 142nd set played in the 54th match between #Nadal and #Djokovic.

Djokovic rallied in the second set and took his chances when they came to clinch it 6-4 and force the decider.

However, Nadal gained an early break at the start of that set, leading an angry Djokovic to smash his racket into the clay in frustration.

Nadal did not look back from that point, breaking twice more to win the third set 6-1 and clinch a record ninth Italian Open title.

He looked the fresher and sharper player from the start of the match and broke twice to race into a 4-0 lead.

The second seed converted his second break point in the opening game of the match when Djokovic netted a forehand and then backed it up by holding to love.

Two more break points followed in Djokovic's next service game, and a fierce forehand winner from Nadal saw him move 3-0 up against a lethargic top seed:

ATP Tour @ATP_Tour

🇪🇸 @RafaelNadal breaks twice! 😲 He leads Novak Djokovic 3-0 after 15 minutes. | #ibi19 https://t.co/Ifss6JBNuz

Djokovic could do little against a relentless Nadal in the first set. He saved four break points at 4-0, only to see the second seed clinch a triple break with a brilliant backhand passing shot down the line.

Nadal then served the set out comfortably to hand Djokovic a first bagel in almost two years, as noted by tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey:

Christopher Clarey @christophclarey

1st bagel set lost by Djokovic since 2017 French Open quarterfinals when Dominic Thiem beat him 7-6, 6-3, 6-0

Freelance writer Ben Rothenberg offered an explanation for Nadal's dominance:

Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg

Both are playing well, but I've got to think the rest advantage is big for Nadal today against Djokovic. He's won his matches here in Rome far more efficiently, to his well-earned credit, and got to play much earlier yesterday, which is just luck.

Djokovic finally got a game on the board at the start of the second, holding to love, and did manage to apply some pressure to the Nadal serve.

Yet the Spaniard wasted a glorious chance to make a crucial break at 3-3, as Djokovic fought back from 0-40 down to hold serve:

ATP Tour @ATP_Tour

Can you find the part of the court they didn't cover in this rally? 🧐 We can't! 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♀️ 🎥: @TennisTV | @RafaelNadal | @InteBNLdItalia https://t.co/Hl240lvfVW

It was to prove a crucial moment in the set, as Djokovic went on to break Nadal for the first time in the next game to send the game into a decider.

Tennis writer Tumaini Carayol commented on the top seed's performance:

Tumaini Carayol @tumcarayol

Djokovic barely survived two successive service games with break points (and two painful smashes), then Nadal threw in one bad game. Take your opportunities.

Nadal responded immediately by breaking Djokovic in a lengthy first game of the third set, and the Serb's frustrations were evident:

Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg

Nadal breaks to open the third set after an 11-minute game, and Djokovic takes out his frustrations on his racket, with three hard (Djoko)smashes into the clay.

This time the defending champion did not let up, racing to victory and his first title of 2019 after semi-final defeats in his last four tournaments.

It is a big win for Nadal over Djokovic heading into the French Open, where he will be aiming to lift the title for a 12th time at Roland Garros.