As expected Rafael Nadal has bounced back from his surprising loss in Madrid last week by capturing his eighth title at the Italian Open after a harder than expected three set win over the German sensation Alexander Zverev at the Foro Italico on Sunday. Nadal regains the number one ranking from arch rival Roger Federer after his 6-1,1-6,6-3 win which was also a record extending 32nd Masters series title.
Nadal went into the match with a 4-0 record against the 21 year old Zverev, including his straight sets blow out in the Davis Cup quarter finals in early April. The Spaniard completely dominated the first set which he claimed with two breaks of serve. Zverev who had won thirteen consecutive matches which included title wins in Munich and then at the Madrid Master’s fought back gallantly to level the match as he inflicted a rare 6-1 set loss to the King of clay.
For once the Spaniard who has a record ten French Open title looked like on the ropes as Zverev got an early break in the decider and led 3-2 when a rain delay interrupted play.
After a short interruption Nadal regrouped and despite Zverev taking a 40-30 lead in the sixth game which would have given him a 4-2 lead, the Spaniard thrived as Zverev failed to hold in the all important sixth game courtesy of a couple of unforced errors.
That signalled a slump in Zverev’s play as the ruthless Nadal never looked back from that point. An easy hold in seventh game and another service break gave Nadal a 5-3 lead.
Serving for the match, the Spaniard led 40-15 but the German saved two match points before Nadal finally ended the two hour and ten minutes match with a deft volley which Zverev failed to reach.
Just for the record Nadal saved 7 out of the 11 break points, while Zverev could only save one out of the six break points he faced. Nadal won 75 points while Zverev won 62.
Nadal has now won a record 32 Master’s title, and is now two titles ahead of the Serb Novak Djokovic, while Roger Federer has won 27 titles at the Master 1000 level. Meanwhile, the young German who was bidding to claim his fourth Master’s title is now 3-2 in the finals
The last time Nadal won in the Italian Capital was in 2013, having previously won there in 2005-07, 2009-10 and 2012-13. His next destination will be at Roland Garros where he has won a record ten times (2005-08, 2010-14 and 2017). Zverev on the other hand is now the leader in the race to London as he collected 600 points for his runner up showing. Zverev is at 3,135 points, Federer is second at 3,110 points, while Rafael Nadal is not far behind with 3,040 points.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]