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Sealing Victory over Rafael Nadal in Rome

  • Post category:Tennis

Novak Djokovic claimed his second Rome Masters crown within four years in 2011, beating his great rival Rafael Nadal in the title clash. Novak claimed only two ATP titles in 2010, finishing it with the Davis Cup trophy and delivering his A-game in 2011.

Djokovic won the season’s opening 43 matches before suffering a surprising loss in the Roland Garros semi-final that may cost him a calendar Grand Slam, an unseen feat since Rod Laver in 1969. Novak conquered all seven ATP tournaments before Paris, four at a Masters 1000 level!

The Serb ousted Andy Murray in the Australian Open final and Roger Federer in the Dubai title match. His most dangerous rival, Rafael Nadal, could not match Djokovic’s pace. The Serb beat the Spaniard in four consecutive Masters 1000 finals in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome.

On May 15, Novak claimed his second title in Rome after toppling a five-time champion Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in grueling two hours and 13 minutes. Thus, Djokovic remained perfect in 2011, winning all 37 matches and marching toward the ATP throne.

Nadal gave his very best to stay in touch with an in-form rival. He tried to finally beat him after three straight defeats in the big finals but with no luck, as Novak proved his dominance for the seventh win in their last nine encounters.

Both players served above 70%, and Djokovic drew more from that. He pushed Nadal to the limits on the second serve (Rafa was five from 20 after missing the first) and converted four out of 11 break chances. Nadal grabbed 38% of the return points and turned that into three break chances and two return games, losing ground in the crucial moments by a more confident rival.

Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the 2011 Rome final.

Djokovic had more winners and errors. He overpowered Nadal in the more extended rallies and broke the Spaniard’s concrete defense to extend his stellar run since the end of the previous season.

The clash kicked off with six easy holds on both sides in some 30 minutes (they served above 80%), forging a baseline battle that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats. The first big moment for the returners came in game eight when Nadal missed an easy forehand to hand two break points to his rival.

Novak converted the first when the Spaniard failed to control his backhand and moved 5-3 in front, serving for the set in the next one. Nadal refused to surrender and broke back after Djokovic’s poor forehands to reduce the deficit to 5-4 and stay in contention.

Nonetheless, Novak remained calm and ruled the court again in game ten. He scored his second consecutive break with a picture-perfect backhand crosscourt winner to take the opener 6-4 in 56 minutes. The Serb held at 15 at the start of the second set and stole Rafa’s serve in game two on his third break chance to move a set and a break up.

Like in the opener, Djokovic played a loose service game after getting the lead to keep the rival in. Rafa pulled the break back in game three when Novak’s drop shot landed long and stayed competitive. The Spaniard fended off two break points in game four and leveled the score at 2-2 with a service winner.

After almost two hours of play, a five-time winner dug deep to stay locked with Novak at 4-4. The Serb experienced a bit of trouble in the next game before firing two big forehands at deuce to make a crucial hold, moving 5-4 up and forcing Nadal to serve to stay in the tournament.

Rafa placed his backhand beyond the baseline to give Novak three match points, facing an ultimate challenge if he wanted to survive and extend the encounter. Nadal delivered three good points to wipe the danger away before Djokovic converted the fourth match point after a lucky net cord to wrap up this thrilling encounter in straight sets and preserve his unbeaten run in 2011.

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