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Rafa reigns in Rome – but a double-blow for Novak

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:32

Rafael Nadal overcame stubborn early resistance from defending champion Novak Djokovic to claim a record fourth Rome Masters title with a 7-6(2) 6-2 win, sealing his fifth title of the year, and his third on clay.

The Serb lost more than his title, with defeat in the final confirming that Andy Murray will be installed as world No.3 on May 11.

“I now have 15 Masters Series in my career, so that’s a lot” – Nadal

After describing the win as “one of the most important of my career,” the world No.1, chasing a fifth successive French Open title later this month, added: “winning in Rome is a big title. I now have 15 Masters Series in my career, so that’s a lot, and I’m very happy for that.”

Nadal got off to a flying start, breaking in the opening game and bringing up set point in game nine on Djokovic’s serve.

But the Spaniard couldn’t convert, and after dropping serve in the next game with some uncharacteristic loose forehands, Djokovic was back in the set at 5-5.

And although the Serb failed to take advantage of his reprieve, smashing his racket after dropping serve in the next game, he quickly regained his composure to seal a second break back and reach a tie-break.

The crowd rallied behind the world No.3 but to no avail, as Nadal ran away with the tiebreak 7-2.

“It’s still close. I can get it back” – Djokovic

After saving a break point at the start of the second, Nadal kept ahead on the scoreboard while things stayed tight, until a double fault did for Djokovic in game six. Nadal didn’t look back, breaking once more to seal the victory.

“When I needed to maybe stay a little bit more patient and just play the right shots I made some unforced errors,” said Djokovic, who did his impersonation of Nadal during the awards ceremony.

The result means Djokovic surrenders his No.3 spot in the world rankings to Andy Murray on May 11 despite the 21-year-old Scot losing his opening match in Rome to Juan Monaco.

Despite the setback, the Serb remained upbeat.

“I’ve been playing really well in the last three Masters Series events and I’m really happy with the shape I’m in at the moment,” said Djokovic, who now heads to Belgrade for the Serbian Open, a tournament co-hosted by the Djokovic family. “So I will try to stay physically fit because that’s what I’m going need very much in upcoming two months until the Wimbledon is over.

“Confidence is really important in this sport, in any sport. Right now I think I have good confidence.”

Asked about losing third spot to Murray following his defeat, Djokovic said: “It’s very close. I’m defending a lot of points, so it’s not strange that it happened.

“He has been playing really well lately but it’s still close. I can get it back. It’s really up and down.”

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