Nadal downs Djokovic to win 10th Rome title; Swiatek crushes Pliskova in women’s final - GulfToday

Nadal downs Djokovic to win 10th Rome title; Swiatek crushes Pliskova in women’s final

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal celebrates with the trophy after winning the Italian Open final match against Novak Djokovic. Reuters

Rafael Nadal beat world number one Novak Djokovic to win a 10th Italian Open title on Sunday and set down a key marker two weeks out from the defence of his Roland Garros crown.

Second seed Nadal won through 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in 2hr 49min against the defending champion in the 57th career showdown between the pair.

“It’s amazing I have this trophy in my hand for a 10th time, it’s something impossible to imagine,” said who Nadal also equalled Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles in his 12th Rome final.

Djokovic and Nadal were facing each other for the 57th time, having last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won in straight sets. The pair have won 15 of the last 17 Rome titles between them, while Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 4-2.

Five-time Rome winner Djokovic leads their overall head-to-head 29-28.

Meanwhile, Polish teenager Iga Swiatek crushed Czech ninth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 to win the Italian Open.

The 19-year-old reigning French Open champion took just 45 minutes to dispatch the 2019 Rome winner two weeks before she opens her title defence in Roland Garros.

Swiatek, ranked 15, claimed her third WTA title having followed her Roland Garros success with a win in Adelaide in January.

“I’m overwhelmed, at the beginning of this tournament I would not have dreamed of winning it,” said an emotional Swiatek, who will break into the Top 10 as a result of her run in Rome.

“When I was playing I didn’t even know what was the score. When my coach told me it was 6-0, 6-0, I was, like, Really? Isn’t that a mistake?

“The key is just to not to think about it and just, you know, play. Because when you’re gonna think about the score, you can actually like ruin your mindset and ruin your attitude.”

Swiatek swept through the first set in just 20 minutes, allowing Pliskova four points, dropping just 13 in total throughout the match. Pliskova tried to fight back in the third game of the second set, holding a double break to win the third game, but the Polish player ruthlessly snuffed out any return.

“From the beginning I felt that she may be a little bit nervous, and I wanted to use that and actually play as many games with that vibe as I can,” said Swiatek.

“But it’s not easy to win the first set 6-0, because you always have in the back of the mind that your opponent may start playing better and they can change the tactics completely, and then you have to adjust and then you’re going to start worrying.

“That’s why it was pretty fast at the beginning.”

“I will just quickly forget about today,” said Pliskova, the world number nine, who was playing in her third consecutive Rome final.

The former world number one retired injured in last year’s final while trailing 6-0, 2-1 to Romania’s Simona Halep.

“I just was feeling horrible out there today,” said the 29-year-old, who has won 16 WTA titles most recently in Brisbane last year.

“I think she really played great. She didn’t give me anything. Sometimes I just tried to make it a bit difficult just to put the ball in. She was playing super fast. I thought she was just going for it. I think she had amazing day and I had horrible day.”

Ninth seed Pliskova was the only top 10 player left in the women’s tournament.

Halep, the third seed, retired with a calf injury. World number one Ashleigh Barty withdrew with a right hand problem, as a precaution before the French Open. Second seed Naomi Osaka, four-time Rome winner Serena Williams and Sofia Kenin, ranked fifth, and 10th ranked Petra Kvitova also exited early.

Swiatek next heads to Paris to defend her Roland Garros title starting on May 30.

“It’s not easy to be a defending champion, but I’m not worrying about that,” she added.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams and Venus Williams have accepted wildcards into next week’s WTA 250 event in Parma, Italy, the Emilia Romagna Open. World No.6 Bianca Andreescu has withdrawn due to continuing illness. Main draw play began on May 16th.

“Serena hasn’t been competing for a while, and we want to get as many matches under our belt as possible before Roland-Garros - so we’re adding the Emilia-Romagna Open to our schedule,” coach Patrick Mouratoglou wrote on social media.


Related articles