Nadal and Pliskova Triumph in Rome

Rafael Nadal finally kick started a stuttering clay court season with a hard fought 6-0 4-6 6-1 win over long-time rival Novak Djokovic to win his 9th title at the Rome Masters. Nadal claimed his first title of 2019 and has once again restored his status as the king of clay going into Roland Garros.

After playing 2 long, late finishing matches against Del Potro and Schwartzman, there were question marks over Djokovic’s energy levels going into the match. Meanwhile, Nadal had only lost 13 games coming into the final and had barely been pushed by any of his opponents.And in the first few games, Djokovic’s fatigue showed as the world number one struggled to gain a foothold in baseline rallies, quickly losing the first set 6-0.

However, Djokovic showed his intent to get back into the match, getting up early from the change of ends and holding his opening service game of set number 2 to love. Djokovic then staved off numerous break points in his following service games, including 3 in a row at 3-3 to keep in the set, before capitalising on a rare loose game from Nadal to take the set 6-4, letting out a huge roar and pumping up a largely pro-Djokovic crowd.

However, Nadal is never below top form for too long on a tennis court, and immediately got back on track with a break of serve in the first game of the third set. It also seemed as though Djokovic had expended all his energy in the second set, and Nadal began to dominate proceedings with some ferocious forehands, as we’ve become so accustomed to over the years. Nadal converted his first match at 5-1 and end his title drought, and become the fifth different player to win a Master’s 1000 in an ever more competitive year at the top of the men’s game.

“I don’t care winning 6-0 or 6-4, being honest. That is just a fact. I don’t care much,” Nadal said. “I played a great first set in all aspects. No mistakes. Playing so aggressive, changing directions. These kind of days happens. It’s not usual and probably will not happen again… the first set is just an important part of the match. What helps the first set is shows that I was able to play at that level.”

Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova came out on top in the women’s draw, beating an in-form Johanna Konta 6-3 6-4 in the final. Despite this loss, Konta is seemingly beginning to return to the form she was showing in 2017, where she made world number 4, and can think positively once again going into the French Open. Konta will be seeded at Roland Garros, but has never won a match in Paris, so will need to improve her level if she wants to continue her rise back up the rankings.

Konta had played some stunning tennis to reach the final in Rome, beating the likes of Sloane Stephens and Kiki Bertens earlier in the week. However, she was simply unable to match Pliskova’s level and didn’t recover after being broken in her opening service game. A second break of the match at 3-3 in the second set was the nail in the coffin for Konta who could only manage one more game before the end of the match.

“I’m super pleased with how I’ve been progressing this year and improving in every match,this is my second biggest final after Miami. This is a big moment for me. I’m very pleased to be making that progress” said Konta.

Written by Emre Saridogan