Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to win ninth Rome Masters

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Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning against Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas during their ATP Masters tournament semi final tennis match at the Foro Italico camp in Rome, on May 18, 2019.

The Spaniard dominated early with Djokovic losing a set 6-0 for the first time to a player he describes as his "greatest rival".

But Djokovic hung around in the second and converted his first set point when a looping forehand from Nadal sailed wide for his first break of the match.

But Nadal, an 11-time French Open champion, broke immediately in a tense deciding set and showed trademark tenacity to finish off his Serbian opponent, who dumped a final backhand volley into the net.

"I've been through some tough moments after Indian Wells".

It also means the three favorites for the French Open title - Nadal, Djokovic and Dominic Thiem - have all won big clay court tournaments in the lead up.

Djokovic however will go into next week's French Open still ranked as number one in the world, despite Nadal becoming the oldest champion at the Italian Open, the latter goes into his favored Slam - which he has won more than any other player - as now the player to win in Rome more than any other.

Tsitsipas stunned Nadal in last week's Madrid Open semi-finals before falling to Djokovic, but lost to the Spaniard in the Australian Open semis earlier this year.

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She explained: "I see Novak has this kind of head on as here and in Madrid, he's just untouchable".

"I played well, a great match in general terms", he said.

The 20-time grand slam champion had been on court for almost four hours on Thursday, saving two match points to win through in three sets against Borna Coric after earlier easing to a straight sets win over Portugal's Joao Sousa. "I played a solid match against a good player who is winning a lot of matches on this surface".

The final set was similar to the opening one, with Djokovic not facing a single break point and capitalizing on a key break-point opportunity in the sixth game.

"I say in Madrid I was playing better, then I played a bad match in the semi-finals, true".

"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", Djokovic said.

"Nadal, number one favourite, without a doubt, then everyone else", said the 15-time Grand Slam victor. "I don't care much", Nadal said. Equally the second set, as well. "I have the greatest respect for him".

"Nobody really gave me chance for this tournament - even me", Pliskova said. She plays with big shots, quite flat, and big serves. "I found it quite hard to get a footing into the match, which is credit to her", said former world number four Konta, who has slipped to 42nd.

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