Rafael Nadal won his 10th Italian Open title on Sunday, beating Novak Djokovic in a hard-fought final. But Nadal’s journey during the week was far from straightforward, and after the final he admitted there was a bit of “luck” involved in his victory.
Nadal began the match against Djokovic in sublime form, bludgeoning one inside-out forehand winner after another to take control of the proceedings. The Spaniard eventually broke at 5-5 to seal the first set, and looked primed for a straight-sets victory.
But just when everyone thought Novak Djokovic was dead in the waters, the Serb made an inspiring comeback. Rafael Nadal himself started playing more passively, allowing Djokovic to take the initiative in the rallies.
Djokovic went on to take the second set 6-1, and at 2-2 in the decider he held multiple break points on Nadal’s serve. But the Spaniard saved them with some brave tennis and went on to hold, before winning four of the next five games to clinch the coveted title.
Speaking to the media after his victory, Rafael Nadal looked back on the nervy moments during his campaign – particularly the third-round encounter against Denis Shapovalov, where he saved multiple match points. The Spaniard went on to assert that it was a ‘good’ tournament overall, exemplified by the way he went from strength to strength after dodging that early bullet.
“I was lucky at some moments, especially against Shapo,” Nadal said. “And then I think I played a good tournament..playing better and better, finding my rhythm on clay..having this trophy, it happened again…amazing.”
Rafael Nadal also claimed he was honored to face Novak Djokovic in what was the duo’s seventh-career meeting at the Foro Italico, and gave plaudits to the Serb for how well he has played this season.
“I am honored to face you, Novak,” Nadal said. “You are playing great, you won in Australia, now let’s see what happens in Paris. You are one of the greatest players ever. Our rivalry is fantastic.”
Rafael Nadal was later probed about the moment in the final when he slipped and fell, which caused plenty of concern among his fans. The Spaniard replied that he could have well suffered an injury in that moment, and called the lines on the court “dangerous”.
“Both on Friday and today I got close to suffer a major injury,” Nadal said. “So I was upset. It’s dangerous. It’s plastic lines, so sometimes they can get a bit higher than the clay. In tennis you run fast and it can turn brutal.”
“I won Rome for the first time in 2005, 16 years later I am still here” – Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal went on to recall his first title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia back in 2005, when he beat Guillermo Coria in the final. The Spaniard expressed his gratitude for being able to remain at the top all these years, and insisted that winning the title at the age of 34 sounded “unbelievable” to him.
“I won Rome for the first time in 2005,” Nadal said. “16 years later I am still here. At almost 35 years old, to win this title is just unbelievable. Amazing feeling.”
Rafael Nadal also compared his incredible feat of 10 titles in Rome with his haul of titles at Roland Garros, Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
“After winning 10 titles in Roland Garros, 10 in Monte Carlo, 10 in Barcelona, I really wanted this one, no?” Nadal said. “I went through a lot of things this week. Some great moments, some lucky moments, some tough moments.”