Nadal powers past Djokovic in Rome final
Updated: May 25, 2012, 11:05
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Rafael Nadal fought his way past world number one Novak Djokovic to lift the Rome Masters title in today's rearranged final.
Nadal had won back-to-back trophies in Rome in 2009 and 2010 before Djokovic halted that run by beating the Spaniard in last year's final.
This year's showpiece had to be put back 24 hours because of persistent rain yesterday, but it was Nadal who came out on top 7-5 6-3 in two hours and 21 minutes.
As a result of the win, Nadal returns to second in the world rankings having slipped out of the top two eight days ago following Roger Federer's victory in Madrid.
Nadal had ended a run of seven successive defeats to the Serbian with a straight-sets victory in last month's Monte Carlo Masters final.
The opening set in the Italian capital was, almost predictably, a close affair played out over one hour and 17 minutes.
Nadal was the first to break in the fifth game, but Djokovic, who turns 25 tomorrow, pulled the deficit back immediately to level matters.
A tie-break then seemed the most likely outcome but Nadal had other ideas and claimed the decisive break in the 11th with a backhand winner.
That left the Spanish second seed serving for the set and he gained the advantage when Djokovic hit a forehand return long.
Nadal broke again in the opening game of the second set, forcing Djokovic out wide with a powerful forehand which the Serbian could only return into the net.
The Spaniard was then forced to stave off four break points on his next service game as Djokovic looked for a way back into the match.
The world number one continued to push his opponent hard as the set wore on, and both players produced some astonishing shots amid the rising tension.
Nadal caught the scent of victory in game nine, however, when Djokovic pushed a backhand wide on his serve to set up match point for his opponent.
And it was a disappointing end to en enthralling contest when Djokovic double-faulted to hand Nadal the title.