Last week Rafael Nadal saved two match points against Denis Shapovalov in the third round en route to his 10th Rome Open title. Fifteen years ago, the Spaniard was in a similar situation on his debut in Rome, fending off two match points in that epic final against Roger Federer.
When asked to compare those two games, Rafa said that's impossible, considering how important the 2006 final was. Furthermore, the Spaniard revealed that it has to be his favorite win with match point against him. In that outstanding 2006 Rome title match, the best match of all time for many, it took Nadal five hours and five minutes to defeat Federer 6-7 (0), 7-6 (5), 6-4 , 2-6, 7-6 (5) and defend the title in Rome, with both players giving their 120% from start to finish.
The Spaniard was already one of the most efficient clay players of all time at the age of 19. However, Roger entered this final with positive vibes after pushing Rafa to the limit in Monte Carlo a month earlier, ready to make another strong challenge in Rome and fight for the title that was missing.
The Swiss was on equal footing with the Spaniard and had a great chance to steal the win, leading 4-1 in the final set and wasting two match points on the return in the 12th game and a 5-3 lead in the decisive tiebreaker.
As always, Nadal refused to give up and overcame all obstacles to win one of the most important matches of his career and lift the sixth Masters 1000 title, all before his 20th birthday!
Rafael Nadal won his 10th Italian Open title on Sunday
Rafael Nadal won his 10th Italian Open title on Sunday, beating Novak Djokovic in a hard-fought final.
But Nadal's journey during the week was far from straightforward, and after the final he admitted there was a bit of "luck" involved in his victory. "I was lucky at some moments, especially against Shapo," Nadal said.
"And then I think I played a good tournament..playing better and better, finding my rhythm on clay..having this trophy, it happened again...amazing. I am honored to face you, Novak," Nadal said. "You are playing great, you won in Australia, now let's see what happens in Paris.
You are one of the greatest players ever. Our rivalry is fantastic. Both on Friday and today I got close to suffer a major injury," Nadal said. "So I was upset. It's dangerous. It's plastic lines, so sometimes they can get a bit higher than the clay. In tennis you run fast and it can turn brutal."