Rafael Nadal claimed the 36th Masters 1000 title last Sunday, beating Novak Djokovic in the Rome Open final. The Spaniard has been a proud owner of numerous Masters 1000 records, building his greatness around three clay events and extending that legacy at hard-court tournaments as well.
Nadal is the only player with 16 quarter-finals at a single Masters 1000 event, achieving that in Monte Carlo in April and repeating the feat in Rome! Rafa arrived in Rome following three consecutive quarter-final losses at the Masters 1000 events on clay, seeking a better run and the first title since October last year.
Rafa faced the fellow top-20 player Jannik Sinner in the second round and defeated the young Italian 7-5, 6-4 in two hours and ten minutes for his 394th Masters 1000 victory. Sinner threw everything he had at Rafa, but it wasn't enough at least for a set, despite the lead in both sets.
The Spaniard stayed under ten winners against Alexander Zverev in Madrid and was determined to fix that in Rome and play more aggressive and dynamic tennis. Rafa finished the clash with 25 winners and 21 unforced errors, firing 19 direct points from his forehand and looking good on the court despite three breaks he suffered.
Jannik was miles from his best, unable to penetrate Rafa and facing 15 break points, allowing the Spaniard to seize five and seal the deal in straight sets. Nadal had the upper hand in the shortest and more extended rallies and didn't allow his opponent to dictate the exchanges, leaving the court happy with how he performed.
Jannik was in front twice in the opener, wasting that and finding himself 7-5 down.
Rafael Nadal has played in 16 quarter-final in both Monte Carlo and Rome.
Nadal had to dig deep from 4-2 down in set number two, rattling off four straight games to seal the deal without having to play a decider.
The Spaniard was a point away from failing to reach the quarters, prevailing over Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after saving two match points in the deciding set's 12th game. Denis threw everything he had at Rafa, firing over 40 winners and staying in touch with the king of clay in the shortest and mid-range exchanges.
Nadal came back from 6-3, 3-0, 40-30 down, remaining composed and stealing the second set to prolong the match and his chances. The Canadian was a break in front in the final set before the Spaniard erased the deficit, wasting his opportunities on the return at 5-5 and repelling those two match points at 5-6 to stay alive and seal the deal in the tie break.
It was Nadal's 16th victory after saving at least one match point, showing his well-known fighting spirit and refusing to surrender until the very last point. Thus, Rafa advanced into his 16th Rome Open quarter-final and defeated Alexander Zverev, Reilly Opelka and Novak Djokovic to lift the tenth crown.