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
In the Open era

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

Result Year Tournament Opponent
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
 Rafael Nadal
28  Roger Federer
17  Andre Agassi
14  Andy Murray
11  Pete Sampras

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