Rome Masters 2019 final preview: Rafael Nadal Vs Novak Djokovic
Relentless, ruthless and dominant - those words describe Rafael Nadal's performance against Stefanos Tsitsipas in his Italian Open semi-final clash, as he stormed into his first final of the clay season at Rome. Nadal, who was stunned by the Greek youngster last week at Madrid, avenged his loss in convincing fashion as he breezed past Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4, in just an hour and 43 minutes on Centre Court to finally cross the semi-final hurdle on clay this year.
In the final, Nadal, 8-time Rome champion meets World No.1 Novak Djokovic, in what can only be described as a dream final; it will be their second meeting and second final this year - these two crossed swords in the lop-sided Australian Open final, where Djokovic emerged victorious.
At Madrid, when Nadal lost his third consecutive semi-final of the clay season, things looked bleak for the Spaniard. But at Rome, Nadal has given us an impression of being a cornered tiger, hungry for success and proving his stronghold on clay yet again; this week he has lived up to his billing.
Especially in the semi-finals, Nadal presented his full repertoire of shots, putting on an exhibition of stunning forehands and brutal baseline play to leave Tsitsipas unable to answer. His performances at the Italian capital so far have been like a breath of fresh air, clearing any cloud of doubts that hovered due to his inconsistent performances leading into Rome.
While Rafael Nadal has sailed into the finals at Rome, his opponent, 15-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic had to face stern tests from his resilient Argentine opponents Juan Martin del Potro and Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-final and the semi-final respectively.
However, one aspect that has worked wonders for the World No.1, especially in the latter half of his career is the whirlwind momentum that he carries with himself, not only from one match to another, but also from one tournament to another. His mental toughness is undisputed, which is why it has proven to be almost impossible to get past Djokovic when he is operating at full strength. Del Potro and Schwartzman yet again got a glimpse of Serb’s tremendous will-power, which has supplanted the latter into his third final of the year.
At Rome on Sunday, the World No.1 and World No.2 will face each other for a whooping 54th time, with Djokovic holding a marginal lead of 28-25 over the Spaniard in their head to head record so far.
This final will not only decide the champion at Rome this year, but will also serve as a prequel to the French Open. Djokovic and Nadal will undoubtedly start as front-runners to triumph in Paris.
If Nadal wins the final, the Spaniard can launch his French Open defense campaign with renewed confidence in his game; it will also be a significant morale boost for him against Djokovic, who handed him the disappointing defeat in Melbourne earlier this year.
A win for Djokovic will put the World No.1 in the driver’s seat and will certainly establish him as the No.1 favourite to win his 2nd French Open title, ahead of the ‘King of Clay’.
It is highly imperative for Nadal to silence his mental demons before he defends his domain at Rolland Garros. It will come easy - beating Djokovic is no easy task.
The two gladiators, the great ambassadors of the game are tied at 33 ATP Masters 1000 titles each. Will Nadal prevail to lift his 9th title at Rome, or will Djokovic run away with his momentum to win a record-breaking 34th Masters 1000 title?
It would be intriguing and absorbing to witness how the story unfolds in the last chapter of this year’s Rome Masters 1000 event!
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in three sets