An 18-year-old Rafael Nadal made the Rome debut in 2005, heading to Foro Italico as one of the title favorites after previous successes in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. The young Spaniard proved that on the court and toppled all six rivals to claim the crown following an epic triumph over Guillermo Coria in the title match.
The instant chemistry between the clay warrior and eternal city was born, and Rafa would win seven of nine titles between 2005-2013. Novak Djokovic stole the crown in 2008 before Nadal regained it the following year after beating the Serb in the final and made another victorious run in 2010 when he ousted David Ferer.
After losing just 14 games in Monte Carlo, Nadal skipped Barcelona and returned in Rome hungry for more wins. He opened the campaign with a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Philipp Kohlschreiber before taking down Victor Hanescu 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarters.
Stan Wawrinka stood no chance against a mighty rival as well, and Rafa sought another comfortable win against Ernests Gulbis for a place in the final. Instead of that, the Latvian pushed the Spaniard to the limits for almost three hours before Nadal prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours and 47 minutes, winning just two points more than his rival who nearly produced one of the biggest surprises of the season.
On a rainy and cold day, Nadal defeated a compatriot David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2 in an hour and 44 minutes to lift the fifth Rome title in the last six years and the 38th overall on the ATP Tour. It was also the 17th Masters 1000 triumph for the 23-year-old Spaniard, joining Andre Agassi at the top of the all-time list and leaving Roger Federer on 16.
Rafa defeated David for the 11th time in 14 matches and the seventh in a row since the beginning of 2008, serving at 80% and dropping just 14 points behind the initial shot to offer his opponent one break chance. Ferrer couldn't convert it and was under constant pressure, giving his best in the first Masters 1000 final and staying in touch in the opening set.
Rafael Nadal defeated David Ferrer in the 2010 Rome Open final.
In the end, Nadal found a way to break him and steal the opener, scoring three breaks of serve in total from 13 chances to seal the deal and travel home with the trophy.
David had the advantage in the shortest points up to four strokes, which wasn't enough to carry him over the finish line. Nadal ruled the court in the mid-range and more extended exchanges to forge the victory after a dominant performance in the second set.
Rafa had more winners and fewer unforced errors, defending the second serve nicely and winning almost every point at the net after well-constructed attacks. Ferrer fended off five break chances at 2-2 to avoid the break in the first intense moment of the match and fired a forehand winner that pushed him 3-2 ahead.
Battling against each other and steady rain, they stayed neck and neck until game 11 when David sprayed a forehand error on game point, squandering three in total and allowing Nadal to break him and move 6-5 up. Rafa was 30-0 down on serve in the previous game, and there were more troubles just around the corner in this one.
He offered David a break point and saved it with a service winner before hitting two more winners for 7-5 after 67 minutes. Carried by this momentum, Nadal grabbed a break in the second set's third game before heavy rain delayed the encounter.
They returned to the court in the evening hours and continued under the lights, with Rafa confirming the break with a hold at love after a backhand down the line winner that pushed him closer to the finish line. Serving at 2-4, Ferrer sprayed a forehand error to suffer another break, and it was all over when Nadal brought the next game home at 15 to seal the deal with a service winner and celebrating the fifth Rome crown in the last six years.