Djokovic: Rafa Got The Better Of Me Today

Novak Djokovic had taken the lead in his historic FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with Rafael Nadal, in large part, thanks to his backhand getting the better of Nadal's forehand. The crosscourt matchup carried the Serbian to his 28th win in their rivalry in January during the Australian Open final.

But on Sunday at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, Djokovic couldn't replicate the tactic, and Nadal, with flicks of the wrist, added a new storyline to their growing rivalry, which Djokovic still leads 28-26.

“In the second set, it was better. Just overall, I was lacking a little bit more of a dynamic movement, kind of attacking the ball. He's got a very difficult, heavy topspin. He can change directions so easily. He's got a great flick of the wrist. He's so talented on any surface. But, I mean, clay especially. He covers the court so well,” Djokovic said.

“The shots that you can win the rally or a point against 99 per cent of players, with him, it doesn't work. It takes an extra shot more. Yeah, sometimes you just have to position yourself well, whether you step into the court or you back up.

“My kind of backhand is maybe not as Dominic Thiem's or someone else's who can produce a lot of spin. I step in and try to take the ball early. It works, sometimes it doesn't. Today he just managed to get the best out of that exchange.”

Djokovic now trails Nadal on the all-time ATP Masters 1000 titles leaderboard, 33 to 34. But the Serbian won't be disappointed with his finishes at the season's three clay-court Masters 1000 events.

Djokovic, after an early exit at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, won the Mutua Madrid Open title last week and made his ninth final in Rome (4-5) before falling 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 to Nadal.

“I'm really glad that I managed to get into the third set, considering the first set where I was blown away from the court. Obviously third set was not much different from the first. Actually, first three, four games of the third set were quite close. Maybe that's where I had a slight chance to build on the momentum that I had from winning the second set,” Djokovic said.

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“I was just running out of fuel a little bit today. Just missed that half a step, especially on the backhand side. He used it very well. He's been playing some terrific tennis thro

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A Look Back At The 2019 Internazionali BNL d'Italia

Another incredible week at the Foro Italico has come to an end. From the world's best playing double duty on Thursday to night sessions that extended well past midnight, fans witnessed another edition of thrilling tennis as Rafael Nadal clinched his ninth crown in Rome and a record-setting 34th ATP Masters 1000 title. Relive the best moments of the 2019 Internazionali BNL d'Italia.

Nadal Wins Ninth Rome Title... Nadal picked up his first ATP Tour title this season with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 win over Novak Djokovic. The opening set was the first-ever 6-0 set in 54 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings between the pair. After three consecutive semi-final showings during the European clay swing at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and Mutua Madrid Open,Nadal broke the streak by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas, turning the tables after losing to the #NextGenATP Greek last week in Madrid.

Nadal was in brilliant form from the first ball in Rome. The Spaniard dropped just 13 games to reach the final and dished out four 6-0 sets throughout the week. He finished the tournament leading in service games won (41 of 43, 95%), break points saved (13 of 15, 97%) and return games won (21 of 32, 66%). 

Cabal/Farah Defend Their Crown... Third seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah successfully defended their title in Rome with a convincing 6-1, 6-3 victory over sixth seeds Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus. The Colombian duo are the first pair since Guy Forget and Yannick Noah (1986-1987) to defend their crown at this event. Cabal/Farah have been in top form during the European clay swing and also prevailed last month in Barcelona (d. Murray/Soares).

Cabal Farah

Another Big Week For Novak... Despite the loss to Rafa, Djokovic proved he's back to top form with his tennis and resilience at the Foro Italico. The Serbian put in a heroic effort to save two match points in his quarter-final win over Juan Martin del Potro and came out on top in a grueling semi-final against Diego Schwartzman. Djokovic simply ran out of steam after spending nearly eight hours on court since Friday night, but dug deep to extend the championship match to a deciding set.

Djokovic reached his 49th ATP Masters 1000 final this week (33-16) and achieved back-to-back finals in Mad

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Comeback Colombians: Farah/Cabal Repeat As Rome Champs

Serving at 4-3, 0/40 in the Rome doubles final on Sunday, Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah did what they've done all week at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia: Stayed calm and rallied.

The Colombians were down 2/7 in the Match Tie-break during their quarter-final against Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan, but saved four match points to reach the semi-finals. On Saturday evening, the longtime Colombian pairing lost the first set 6-2 after only 29 minutes against top seeds Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo, yet recovered to prevail in another Match Tie-break.

On Sunday, however, Cabal/Farah skipped the heroics, beating Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus 6-1, 6-3 in only 59 minutes to repeat as Rome champions and win their second ATP Masters 1000 title.

“I kept repeating to myself and to [Cabal], 'If we come back from this game, we got it. Let's just focus to come back from this game,'” Farah said. “And I feel like when you win tournaments, things go your way. That's the way it is. I don't know what it is, I don't know how to explain it... When it's yours, it's yours.”

Cabal/Farah have now won two of the biggest ATP Tour titles this European clay-court swing, having won the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell last month, and they will head into Roland Garros as one of the favourites to make a deep run.

Read Flashback: Cabal/Farah Win Barcelona Title

“We just keep fighting, keep fighting point by point,” Cabal said. “We got the level. We know we can beat anyone and that's what we focus on.”

Cabal/Farah gained two early breaks en route to a 5-0 lead before serving out the opener. Klaasen/Venus rebounded in the second, but the Colombians won eight of the final nine points. The pairing will receive 1,000 ATP Doubles Rankings points and split €284,860.

“Every time you win a 1000 event, it's something very special. There are no words to describe it. To go back-to-back is even more impressive,” Farah said. “It just builds up our confidence as a team.”

Klaasen/Venus were going for their first Masters 1000 team title. They will receive 600 ATP Doubles Rankings points and split €139,020.

“We got off to a somewhat sloppy and slow start and that cost us,” Klaasen said. “We had a few chances, but we obviously aren't happy with how things went out there, and they were too good for us today.”

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Updates: Djokovic Takes Second Set From Nadal In Rome Final

Novak Djokovic is not going down without a fight.

After Rafael Nadal took the first set of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia final 6-0, the World No. 1 battled back, saving all four break points he faced in the second set to take it 6-4, sending the Rome championship match to a deciding set.

Djokovic may have won nine of the pair’s previous 11 FedEx ATP Head2Head matches, but Nadal wasted no time taking the lead at the Foro Italico. The Serbian dropped balls shorter than usual early on, allowing Nadal to pounce, stepping into the court to dictate play. It appeared Nadal, who won three 6-0 sets and did not drop a set en route to the final, was the fresher man compared to Djokovic, who battled through two tough three-setters on Friday and Saturday evening against Juan Martin del Potro and Diego Schwartzman, respectively.

Time On Court Entering The Final

 Rafael Nadal  3:22  Novak Djokovic  5:34

In recent years, Djokovic has thrived in crosscourt rallies between his backhand and Nadal's forehand, but the Spaniard has done well to avoid those battles from the back foot, only engaging in those rallies from an offensive position. Towards the end of the set, though, Djokovic was able to step in and take a couple of crosscourt backhand early for winners. Nadal broke serve three times in the first set, earning 59 per cent of his return points in the opener.

Although Djokovic did not win a game in the first set, the two sharp crosscourt backhand winners he hit near the end of the first set showed a change of intent, which carried into the second. The Serbian began to play more aggressively, and there was more intensity in his movement on the court. 

Djokovic earned his first break point of the second set at 2-1 with a sharp-angled forehand. But Nadal dismissed that opportunity by dancing around his backhand to crush an inside-in forehand winner. At 3-3, 0/30 Nadal threw up a desperate lob that Djokovic smashed right into the net to give the Spaniard three break points. But the four-time Rome champion escaped that game with strong serving.

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Djokovic fended off another break chance at 4-4, the 13th he faced in the match and his fourth of the set. But that proved key, as the top seed earned his first break of the match on set point, w

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Scouting Report: 20 Things To Watch In Lyon & Geneva

ATP 250 titles are on the line this week at clay-court events in Lyon and Geneva. At the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Roberto Bautista Agut are the top two seeds, while 2017 titlist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and #NextGenATP Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime will also go for the trophy.

At the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open, reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev, two-time champion Stan Wawrinka, and defending champion Marton Fucsovics head the field.

Draws: Lyon | Geneva

1) Terrific Tsonga:
Tsonga won the 2017 edition of the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon, beating Basilashvili and Tomas Berdych in the final two rounds. Tsonga ended an injury-plagued 2018 ranked No. 259 but is back in the Top 100 after a 14-7 start to 2019, which includes winning his 17th ATP Tour singles title at Montpellier.

2) Top Seed: Basilashvili made the final four at Lyon in 2017 ranked No. 71, before losing to Tsonga. The Georgian did not play at Lyon in 2018, but since then, he has been on the rise, winning his first two titles at Beijing and Hamburg last year and hitting a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 17 on 1 April.

3) Stellar Spaniard: Second seed Bautista Agut has notched numerous milestones in 2019. He won a title in January for the fourth straight season, earning his ninth ATP Tour singles trophy in Doha. The Spaniard beat World No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to the Doha crown, and defeated Djokovic again in Miami. Bautista Agut also reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open.

4) Dynamite Denis: Third seed Shapovalov made his third ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami before he turned 20 on 15 April, making him one of five players who are tied for the second-most ATP Masters 1000 semi-finals as a teenager (Rafael Nadal stands alone in first place with eight). He also cracked the Top 20 in the ATP Rankings for the first time two weeks before his 20th birthday.

5) Fantastic Felix: Auger-Aliassime is seeded just one place behind Shapovalov, and the 18-year-old, who ended last year ranked No. 109, has rocketed up the ATP Rankings this year to join his friend and compatriot in the Top 30. Auger-Aliassime’s own run to the Miami semi-finals made him the third-youngest Masters 1000 semi-finalist – just behind S

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Preview: Djokovic And Nadal Face Off In Rome Final

A treasured rivalry will be renewed as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal square off for the title at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. They co-own the record for most ATP Masters 1000 titles (33) and the winner of Sunday's final will hold it solo.

This is their eighth meeting in Rome. Nadal edges Djokovic 4-3 in their mini-series at the ATP Masters 1000 event, which includes four finals (2-2). Djokovic leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 28-25.

“He's my greatest rival of all time, for sure,” said Djokovic. “I've had so many matches against him. We have the longest rivalry of tennis of all time. Every time we get to play each other, it's a thrill. It's the ultimate challenge.”

Djokovic has had a much harder road to the final than his opponent. While Nadal dropped just 13 games and dished out three 6-0 sets, the Serbian saved two match points to defeat Juan Martin del Potro in an epic quarter-final and followed it up with another grueling three-set win over Diego Schwartzman. The Serbian has spent five hours and 34 minutes on court since Friday, compared to three hours and 22 minutes for Nadal.

“It's obvious that I played more than Rafa. At the same time, I'm in the finals and that's a great success,” said Djokovic. "It's not the first time I find myself in these kinds of situations. I feel okay, [but] of course not as fresh as at the beginning of the week. It is what it is. I'll try to recover for tomorrow.”

Who will win the latest @FedEx ATP Head2Head clash between these players?#ibi19

— ATP Tour (@ATP_Tour) May 18, 2019

The top seed has compiled a greater track record against the world’s best players than Nadal has over the past year. Djokovic is 18-1 against Top 10 players since Wimbledon and 5-0 in 2019, compared to 1-3 this season for the Spaniard. The four-time Rome champion is hoping to lift his first title here since 2015 (d. Federer), but knows he'll need to bring his best tennis to defeat Nadal.

“He's one of the greatest champions this game has ever seen. His mentality, his approach, his resilience, ability to fight back after long absence from the tour, injuries, surgeries…he's had it all,” said Djokovic. “He keeps on showing to the world why he's one of the biggest legends of tennis history. I have the greatest respect for him.”

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