Rafael Nadal: 'I used Rome 2019 as a reference against Novak Djokovic in Paris'

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Rafael Nadal: 'I used Rome 2019 as a reference against Novak Djokovic in Paris'

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been battling on the ATP Tour ever since Roland Garros 2006, fighting for our sport's most notable titles and honors. Both players had some ups and downs in their thrilling rivalry, with Djokovic leading 29-27 after the latest clash at Roland Garros a week ago.

Nadal had the upper hand in the early days against Djokovic, rattling off 14 out of 18 wins before Novak took charge in Cincinnati 2009, winning ten of the following 12 encounters to reduce the deficit. In 2012 and 2013, Nadal earned six wins over Djokovic (three at Majors and three at the Masters 1000 level) to regain control before Novak started to dominate since Beijing 2013.

In the previous seven years, Nadal has beat Djokovic only five times and none away from clay, losing the edge on the hard court and allowing Novak to move in front of him. Last year in Rome, the Spaniard defeated the Serb in the final, playing well and taking that encounter as a reference ahead of their latest meeting at Roland Garros last Sunday.

In one of the most important encounters of the century, Nadal toppled Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 41 minutes, lifting the 13th crown in Paris and the 20th Major overall. Nadal had 31 winners and 14 unforced errors and stole 51% of the return points to control the result.

Novak sprayed more than 50 unforced errors, searching for his A-game for more than two hours and suffering a massive loss despite a solid resistance in set number three. Rafa lost serve once and grabbed seven breaks from 18 opportunities, pushing strong and outplaying Novak in the shortest range up to four strokes.

Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in their previous four encounters on clay.

Nadal bageled Djokovic in the opening set and faced no break points in set number two, taming his strokes nicely and overpowering the opponent for another rock-solid set of tennis that propelled him 6-0, 6-2 in front after an hour and 34 minutes.

They traded breaks in the middle of the third set and it was Nadal who stayed focused in the closing stages. With no room for errors, he held comfortably in games eight, ten and 12, earning a break at 5-5 after a double fault from Novak and sealing the deal with a hold at love for the 20th Major crown.

"My last match on clay against Novak was in Rome last year. There, I was coming out of a very bad spell and played very well. I used that as a kind of reference. We went out with a more or less clear idea of what we wanted to do.

And then the more complicated part came: putting it into practice. Luckily, yesterday was one of those days when I was able to do it. I felt my game, and everything worked perfectly," Rafael Nadal said.