Saturday 21 September 2019

Nadal warms up for French Open with Italian title

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning the Men's final at Rome's ATP Tennis Open.
Photo: Getty Images
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning the Men's final at Rome's ATP Tennis Open. Photo: Getty Images

Gerard Hughes

Rafael Nadal took full advantage of a weather delay to beat defending champion Alexander Zverev in a roller coaster final of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome yesterday.

Nadal was a break down in the decider when rain forced a second stoppage of the match, with Zverev having won nine of the previous 12 games.

And when play resumed after a delay of 50 minutes, Nadal immediately broke back and won four games in succession to seal a 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 victory, ahead of next week's French Open.

A 32nd Masters 1000 title and an eighth in Rome will take Nadal back to world No 1, the 31-year-old having relinquished top spot with a quarter-final defeat to Dominic Thiem in Madrid last week.

Zverev went on to win in Madrid for back-to-back titles after victory in Munich and looked set to make it a hat-trick after recovering from losing six games in succession in the opening set.

The 21-year-old, who had lost all four of his previous meetings with Nadal, raced into a 5-0 lead in the second set and Nadal breathed a sigh of relief after getting a game on the board to avoid a first bagel on clay since 2007.

After serving out for the set, Zverev broke in the opening game of the decider and was ahead 3-2 when a lengthy stoppage for rain - the first had lasted only a few minutes - ultimately swung the momentum of the contest firmly in Nadal's favour.

Nadal was full of praise for his opponent at the presentation ceremony broadcast on Sky Sports.

"Today the trophy is with me for just a few points," the 31-year-old said. "It was a very difficult match and I wish you all the best for the next couple of years."

Meanwhile, in the women's game Elina Svitolina continued her impressive record in finals by thrashing world No 1 Simona Halep to successfully defend her Internazionali BNL d'Italia title.

Svitolina raced through the opening set in just 19 minutes and broke early in the second on her way to a 6-0, 6-4 victory, an eighth straight final victory improving her overall record to 12-2.

The 23-year-old Ukrainian was in ruthless form, breaking in the opening game of the match and twice more in the opening set, losing just three points on her serve in the process.

On her way to yesterday's final, Halep beat Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the semi-finals on Saturday.

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