Rafael Nadal took out an in-form Novak Djokovic in the finals of the Italian Open. Rafa decimated Novak 6-0 in the first, but Novak regrouped to mount a 4-6 come-back in the second. Nadal, however, took his game a notch higher to break Djokovic multiple times for a 6-1 win in the third.
Novak was on a roll since the Madrid Open.
Novak was on a roll since the Madrid Open which he won by taking out, the hottest contender, Dominic Thiem 7-6(2), 7-6(4) in the semi-final and the highly talented youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 in the finals. Novak Djokovic’s winning form continued in the Rome Masters where he again avenged his loss to Philip Kohlschreiber at the Indian Wells Master earlier this March. Novak was brutal in his 6-3, 6-0 slaughter of Kohlschreiber. He then overcame a stiff, three-set, resistance in the quarterfinals from Juan Martin Del Potro and a tight three-set battle in the semis against Schwarzman.
Rafa’s tactical genius won him the match against Novak.
Perhaps Novak was a little tired after his back-to-back finals in Madrid and Rome. We, however, believe it had more to do with Rafa’s tactical genius of playing more down the line and behind Novak than Djokovic’s tiredness. Novak is unbeatable at running crosscourt behind the baseline and Rafa a master at playing the safe cross-court shots. In this match, however, Rafa used the down the line forehand and backhand to wrong-foot Djokovic in many instances. He also utilized the angled slice-serve – form the deuce court – to draw Djokovic out of the court and close with a winner into the open court. With this win, Nadal narrowed Djokovic’s head-to-head lead to 26-28 in favor of Novak.
Rafael Nadal is the favorite again for the French Open.
We believe, Rafa’s win over Novak was also the result of Nadal’s surging confidence after extensive match-play over the last two months. Rafael Nadal requires extensive match-play to get the length in his ground-shots and, in Rome, his ground-shots found the length they were missing in the previous clay-court events this year. With the length – in his ground-shots – back, Nadal is again the favorite for the French Open, only with a far-smaller margin this time around.