ROME (AFP) – Rafael Nadal defeated his greatest rival Novak Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 to win a ninth Italian Open title and a record 34rd Masters on Sunday, leaving his vanquished foe to label the Spaniard as “the number one favourite for Roland Garros.”
World number one Djokovic, winner at the Madrid Open last week, produced an error-strewn performance in his 54th meeting with second-ranked Nadal, who claimed the 81st title of his career.
“Finally I have a title,” said Nadal after securing his first title of 2019. “I’m happy to reach that level in the last tournament before a Grand Slam.”
Djokovic had beaten Nadal in the final of the Australian Open this year for his third straight Grand Slam win after Wimbledon and the US Open.
Nadal overtakes Djokovic at the top of the list for Masters wins – the pair were level at 33 each before Sunday’s final – in a timely boost ahead of his assault on a 12th French Open crown in a week’s time.