Rafael Nadal won a fourth different tournament for the tenth time as he beat world No 1 Novak Djokovic to complete his latest ‘La Decima’ at the Italian Open.
Second seed Nadal beat the defending champion 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in a high-quality encounter lasting two hours and 49 minutes, winning the 57th career showdown between the pair and equalling Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles.
The 34-year-old already has 10 or more titles at three other tournaments – the Monte Carlo Masters, Barcelona Open and of course, the French Open. The fourth different Decima at Rome Masters is just another reminder of Nadal’s extra-terrestrial skill on a clay court.
“I really wanted this title. This had been one of the most important titles in my career. I’d won 10 in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros and really wanted it here too,” the champion said.
Djokovic and Nadal were facing each other for the 57th time, having last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won in straight sets. The pair have won 15 of the last 17 Rome titles between them, while Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 4-2.
Nadal came into the Rome final having lost in the quarter-finals to youngsters in the first two clay-court Masters of the season – Andrey Rublev at Monte Carlo and Alexnader Zverev at Madrid. He did win the Barcelona Open, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in a terrific final.
But with the gritty title win in Rome, the world No 2 set down a key marker two weeks out from the defence of his Roland Garros crown.
Nadal’s incredible record on clay-court is set in stone by now. But a 10th title at Rome shines further light on just how incredible his consistency on the surface is.
He is one of only two male players to have titles in double digits at a single event, the other being Roger Federer with a Decima each on grass and hard court events. (Martina Navratilova is the only woman) But Nadal’s sheer dominance on the clay court swing is on a whole different level.
Most titles at single event (ATP and Majors)
|Number of titles||Tournament||Player|
|13||French Open (Grand Slam)||Rafael Nadal|
|12||Barcelona Open (ATP 500)||Rafael Nadal|
|11||Monte Carlo Masters (ATP 1000)||Rafael Nadal|
|10||Italian Open (ATP 1000)||Rafael Nadal|
|10||Halle (ATP 500)||Roger Federer|
|10||Basel (ATP 500)||Roger Federer|
|9||Australian Open (Grand Slam)||Novak Djokovic|
Of the four tournaments Nadal has won 10 times or more, one is Grand Slam, two are part of the Masters 1000 series and the one is an ATP 500. Of the nine ATP Masters events in a year, three are played on clay and Nadal has now won two of them – Monte Carlo and Rome – more than 10 times while being a five-time champion at the Madrid Masters.
The Spaniard had lost just seven Masters final on clay, with 26 of his 36 titles coming on the surface.
Nadal has also won a title on clay at Hamburg, which is no longer a Masters. (Fun fact: He played two finals there, both against Roger Federer.)
Nadal in clay-court Masters finals
|Win||2005||Monte-Carlo Masters||Guillermo Coria|
|Win||2005||Italian Open||Guillermo Coria|
|Win||2006||Monte-Carlo Masters (2)||Roger Federer|
|Win||2006||Italian Open (2)||Roger Federer|
|Win||2007||Monte-Carlo Masters (3)||Roger Federer|
|Win||2007||Italian Open (3)||Fernando González|
|Loss||2007||German Open||Roger Federer|
|Win||2008||Monte-Carlo Masters (4)||Roger Federer|
|Win||2008||German Open||Roger Federer|
|Win||2009||Monte-Carlo Masters (5)||Novak Djokovic|
|Win||2009||Italian Open (4)||Novak Djokovic|
|Loss||2009||Madrid Open||Roger Federer|
|Win||2010||Monte-Carlo Masters (6)||Fernando Verdasco|
|Win||2010||Italian Open (5)||David Ferrer|
|Win||2010||Madrid Open (2)||Roger Federer|
|Win||2011||Monte-Carlo Masters (7)||David Ferrer|
|Loss||2011||Madrid Open||Novak Djokovic|
|Loss||2011||Italian Open||Novak Djokovic|
|Win||2012||Monte-Carlo Masters (8)||Novak Djokovic|
|Win||2012||Italian Open (6)||Novak Djokovic|
|Loss||2013||Monte-Carlo Masters||Novak Djokovic|
|Win||2013||Madrid Open (3)||Stanislas Wawrinka|
|Win||2013||Italian Open (7)||Roger Federer|
|Win||2014||Madrid Open (4)||Kei Nishikori|
|Loss||2014||Italian Open||Novak Djokovic|
|Loss||2015||Madrid Open||Andy Murray|
|Win||2016||Monte-Carlo Masters (9)||Gaël Monfils|
|Win||2017||Monte-Carlo Masters (10)||Albert Ramos Viñolas|
|Win||2017||Madrid Open (5)||Dominic Thiem|
|Win||2018||Monte-Carlo Masters (11)||Kei Nishikori|
|Win||2018||Italian Open (8)||Alexander Zverev|
|Win||2019||Italian Open (9)||Novak Djokovic|
|Win||2021||Italian Open (10)||Novak Djokovic|
With his hard-fought win over Djokovic, Nadal also equalled the Serb’s record for most Masters 1000 titles which has been changing hands between the two for a while now. Djokovic had overtaken Nadal’s record of 35 at Rome as well, in the delayed season last year.
Most ATP Masters titles
|Number of titles||Player|
|36|| Novak Djokovic|
In the autumnal clay-court swing of 2020, when Rome was the only clay Masters plays, Nadal went into French Open without a title but crushed Djokovic in the final to win a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam. The 34-year-old has yet again found a way to peak at the end of the clay season and will head into the Paris as the favourite for a record-breaking 21th Major.
Here’s a look at some more numbers from Nadal’s Rome run
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