The men's singles final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal has to be one of the finest performances of Nadal on clay this year. The Spaniard displayed his mastery by winning his 9th Rome crown,, proving once again that he is the King of Clay.
Nadal seemed pumped up right from the start, which was in stark contrast to the fatigued look that Djokovic bore. The Serb had to play two back-to-back three-set matches before coming to the final, and that clearly sapped him of energy.
Let's look at the statistics from the final.
Surprisingly, there were only 31 rallies in the entire match that went lasted 9 shots or more. It was Nadal who dominated in this area, winning 23 of those points. On the other hand, Djokovic won 39 points played under 5 shots whereas Nadal won 37.
Normally we see Djokovic chasing the ball from corner to corner, hitting the ball with depth even from defensive positions and making it difficult for the opponent to catch his breath. But today was a different story as he hit quite a few short balls that sat up to be dispatched by the ferocious forehand of the Spaniard.
The first serve percentage for Djokovic was 75% and for Nadal it was 73%. If we take a look at the percentage of points won on the first serve, it was a mere 60% for the Serb and 73% for Nadal. And the stat that damaged Djokovic the most was the percentage of points he won on his second serve; it was as little as 29%, compared to remarkable 61% from Nadal.
In the first set, Djokovic had no answers to Nadal's brilliance, and it was evident that he would have to adjust his game and hit the ball with more power and depth if he wanted to stay in contention for the title.
In the second set Djokovic started to serve better and his movement also improved, even though the errors kept flowing. He somehow managed to hold serve and take the score to 5-4, before breaking Nadal and pocketing the set. That 10th game of the second set was the only time in the match when Nadal looked uncomfortable with his game.
In the third set, Djokovic lost his serve on multiple occasions and handed over the match to Nadal 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 after 2 hours and 25 minutes of entertaining tennis.
It was the timing that went wrong for Djokovic throughout the match as he mishit many drop shots at crucial moments. He even mistimed 4 overhead shots which lost him points from advantageous positions. The exhaustion seemed to be creeping all over Djokovic, and he couldn't find the momentum to stage a comeback in the match.
The Serb handed as many as 17 break point opportunities to Nadal and the Spaniard capitalized on 6 of them. On the other hand Nadal faced just two break points out of which Djokovic converted one, and that was never going to be enough to turn the tables in the match.
This was a much-needed victory for the Spaniard, especially as it comes just a week before the French Open. Nadal will try to create history by winning his 12th title in Paris, and he is looking like the favorite to do exactly that.Published 20 May 2019, 04:24 IST