ROME, (Reuters):Rafa Nadal enjoyed the perfect fillip ahead of his French Open defence by downing world number one Novak Djokovic 7-5 6-3 in the delayed Rome Masters final on Monday.
Beaten surprisingly early on Madrid’s blue clay earlier this month, the 25-year-old Mallorcan has been back to his destructive best on the red dirt at the Foro Italica but saved his most impressive display to last.
Both players refused to budge an inch in a brutal 76-minute opener but Djokovic, who memorably beat Nadal in straight sets in last year’s final, faded and the match ended in anti-climax when he double-faulted to gift Nadal a record sixth Rome title.
Six-times French Open champion Nadal’s victory means he will rise back to second in the world rankings after being overtaken by Roger Federer last week -- a significant move ahead of Roland Garros where he will now definitely be in the opposite half of the draw to Djokovic.
The match, the 32nd between the pair, had been postponed by rain on Sunday, but both players came out firing in front of a healthy crowd as the sun finally returned.