World number 2 Rafael Nadal has won his eight Masters 1000 crown in Rome and the 32nd overall after a 6-1 1-6 6-4 triumph over the Madrid champion and the 2nd seed Alexander Zverev, scoring his fifth win in as many matches against the young German. It was a solid clash between the players who have shared the previous two Masters 1000 tournaments in Monte Carlo and Madrid, and the winner was decided after a rain delay at 3-2 for Zverev in the final set.
The more experienced player came back stronger, he pulled the break back immediately and brought the match home with another one to lift his 78th ATP title and the 56th on clay. Alexander did everything right after losing the opening set and he was a break up when the rain sent them off the court, never finding his rhythm again and missing a chance to grab already his fourth Masters 1000 title at the age of 21 and defend the title he has won against Novak Djokovic 12 months ago (he has won 13 matches prior to this final, with titles in Munich and Madrid).
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With this triumph and 1000 points he has won, Nadal would return to number 1 spot in the ATP rankings tomorrow, losing it to Roger Federer after a quarter-final defeat in Madrid to Dominic Thiem. It wasn’t the best serving performance from Nadal, having to play against 11 break points and suffering four breaks of serve.
Nadal had 19 winners and 21 unforced errors while Zverev counted to 21 winners and 28 errors, missing too many shots from his forehand and not being able to hurt Nadal with his initial shot, that worked so well in Madrid and earlier here in Rome.
After his loss at Rome, Zverev called Rafa the greatest clay-court player of all time. That’s a description few will disagree with. And with Rafa just turning 32 in a couple of weeks’ time, there is no telling how many more clay court tournaments he will win before he hangs up his racquet. Of course, for him to continue playing at his best, Rafa needs to be injury-free. In fact, Rafa’s record, as incredible as it already is, may have been even better if he had not had so many injuries throughout his career. Then again, Rafa’s record is phenomenal precisely because he has made so many comebacks from injuries.