|Djokovic has the momentum heading into the French Open as he defeats Nadal to win his third Rome Masters title.|
Nadal started well in the first set. It highlighted more-so by Djokovic's inability to adopt to the situation rather than Nadal's brilliance. Djokovic gifted Nadal a lot free points as the unforced errors mounted. Djokovic did managed to salvage one of two break points he handed Nadal, but Nadal managed to save three break points as he closed out the set in command. Djokovic committed sixteen unforced errors in the opener.
Djokovic raised his level of play in the second set. This time he was the one to break Nadal, racing to a three love lead. But Nadal came back strong to get the break back and he was hoping to be on level terms, however his momentum wasn't sustained as Djokovic break right back to lead 5-2. Each held the next two service games so Djokovic closed out the second with a 6-3 over Nadal. Djokovic clearly raised his game in the second set, contrary to the first, as he only committed eight unforced errors.
Final set saw a similar trend to the second, which was bad news for Nadal. Djokovic started the set by breaking Nadal and then hold for a 2-0 lead. However, like in the second set, Nadal did manage to break Djokovic following a weak game by the Serbian. And guess what happened after? Nadal handed the break right back to Djokovic. Nadal's inability to consistently maintain his game to fend of Djokovic's aggressiveness has been a key during the match - and it's wasn't something that wasn't expected given recent drop in his level. It was too late to get that break back as Novak made no mistake holding his own serve. So it was up to Rafa to serve to stay in the match, and he failed to do that.
Heading into Rafa's favourite Grand Slam in a week time, burden of proof is on Nadal's side. Considering that fact that his only European clay title came with the help of an injured Nishikori ( who was leading throughout the match until his back started to be pain ), Nadal's is the one who's going to have to find "solutions."
Following the match, Nadal claimed he was fatigued due to extended early round matches he had to play. “My legs didn’t answer after a tough week, not [good enough] to arrive and to produce the power and to hit the ball longer so I let him play in positive positions," he said. This is a really a WTF moment because if playing long matches on clay is your trademark how can you turn around and say it was a liability. I get the fact that players have to play to five matches with any breaks like in Grand Slams, but you can't say you were tired when you were the one trying make matches physical by playing defensive tennis. After all, Nadal enjoyed a VERY easy semi-final win over Dimitrov, unlike Djokovic. That should have given him some confidence, knowing that he's peaking just in time for the final, despite cumbersome early rounds.
With way he's been playing on European clay, it's likely the case that he'll have to go the distance in Paris as well. There definitely will be lengthy matches, and some of them even could be five-setters. And if Nadal can't recover well enough for next round, and if he happened to be half-a-step behind timing, his French Open campaign will be under water.
Following the tournament victory Djokivc, on the other hand, was making no excuses for the lengthy semi final and quarter-final. “Winning against Rafa in the finals of a big tournament on clay, his preferred surface, is definitely a confidence booster,” Djokovic said. “It’s the ultimate challenge and I’m very happy with my game so far and hopefully I can carry that into Roland Garros.” Good for you Djoker, though beating Nadal is going be another big challenge just like last year.