Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been the dominant figures at the Rome Masters 1000 event, sharing 14 out of the last 16 titles at Foro Italico! Rafa claimed seven titles between 2005-2013, adding two more in 2018 and 2019 and losing in the quarters last September.
On the other hand, Djokovic is a proud winner of five Rome titles, claiming the first in 2008 and finishing at the top in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2020. The Serb will try to defend the title this week, not playing well in Monte Carlo and Belgrade and feeling eager to fix that at one of his favorite tournaments.
Novak and Rafa practiced in Rome on Sunday and bumped into each other in the parking between their scheduled sessions, exchanging a few words. Two great rivals are not in the same half of the draw, and they should meet in the final if they both score four victories.
Rome is the last big test ahead of the season's second Major event in Paris, and Rafa and Novak want to give their best and chase the crown after a slow start of the clay swing. Novak and Rafa took some time off the court following the Australian Open, and they returned to action in Monte Carlo.
Djokovic experienced an unexpected loss to Daniel Evans in straight sets, struggling to win the crucial points and falling to the opponent who had four ATP wins on clay prior to Monte Carlo.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal trained at Foro Italico on Sunday.
On the other hand, Nadal won two matches in style before losing to Andrey Rublev 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, giving his best in the second set but standing powerless in the decider.
A week later, Novak competed at home in Belgrade, beating two young guns with no problems before falling to Aslan Karatsev in the semis after an epic battle. The Russian prevailed in three sets after almost three and a half hours, leaving home favorite empty-handed and causing Novak's Madrid Open withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Rafa battled in Barcelona and claimed the 12th title on the court that carries his name, struggling but overpowering Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final after fending off a match point! The encounter lasted for almost three hours and 40 minutes, with two rivals pushing each other to the limits in the most extended best-of-three ATP title match in the previous three decades.
Hoping for more of the same in Madrid, Nadal suffered the third straight Masters 1000 quarter-final defeat on his favorite surface, losing to Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-4 after a poor performance and under ten winners in the entire clash. Novak will face Daniel Evans or Taylor Fritz in the second round, while Rafa plays against Jannik Sinner or Ugo Humbert.