Novak Djokovic gets green light to challenge Rafael Nadal at Foro Italico

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Novak Djokovic gets green light to challenge Rafael Nadal at Foro Italico

Next week, the 20-time Major winner Novak Djokovic will kick off the season at the ATP 500 event in Dubai. Novak was deported from Australia in January after losing his case on the court over his visa, not defending the Australian Open crown.

Unvaccinated Serb will almost certainly skip Indian Wells and Miami, hoping to continue his season in Monte Carlo and at home in Belgrade. Also, Djokovic will have a chance to compete at the Rome Masters in May. The Italian sports minister Valentina Vezzali stated that Djokovic would be allowed to participate in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, as outdoor events do not exclude unvaccinated players.

Thus, the five-time Rome Masters champion will have the opportunity to fight for another title at Foro Italico, winning the title in 2020 and losing the final to his great rival Rafael Nadal last May. Rafa claimed the tenth crown in Rome following a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 triumph over Novak in grueling two hours and 50 minutes.

Nadal secured the 36th Masters 1000 crown, joining Djokovic at the top of the list and bouncing back after the quarter-final losses in Monte Carlo and Madrid. Rafa fired 37 winners and 23 unforced errors to overpower a great rival and beat him for the 28th time in 57 encounters.

Nadal won only a couple of points more than Djokovic, trailing in the more extended rallies and erasing that deficit in the quickest exchanges up to four strokes to emerge at the top.

Novak Djokovic gets green light to compete at Rome Masters in May.

They broke each other in the encounter's early stages and stayed neck and neck for over an hour in the opening set.

Rafa grabbed a crucial break at 5-5 when Novak netted an easy forehand and held after deuce to wrap up the set and gain momentum. Djokovic raised his level in set number two and left Nadal far behind with a double break, rattling off five straight games to become a favorite ahead of the decider.

Battling hard to remain in touch, Rafa saved break chances at 2-2 and grabbed a break at love in the next one to open a 4-2 gap. Djokovic saved a match point in game eight with a service winner before Nadal moved over the top with a hold at 30 a few minutes later.

"It is an outdoor sport, and the tighter green pass is not required. If Novak Djokovic wants to come to Italy to play, he will be able to do so. Maybe without visiting hotels and restaurants," Italian sports minister Vezzali said.