Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 5/21/12
He had to wait a year and a day but Rafael Nadal finally got his revenge over Novak Djokovic with a brilliant display in belated sunshine at the Foro Italico Monday when he won the Rome Masters final 7-5, 6-3. In 2011, Nadal had looked totally bewildered after losing to Djokovic in Rome just a week after suffering at the Serb's hands in Madrid. Being defeated on his beloved red clay was not something he could comprehend but now, in a final pushed forward to Monday because of rain, the Spaniard returned to his majestic best. Forcing the world No. 1 into errors with his deep, heavily spun returns, Nadal won Rome for the sixth time in eight years, re-establishing himself as the dominant clay court player of his age - and probably of all time. The win follows his eighth straight title in Monte Carlo and his seventh in Barcelona, mountainous records that may never be equaled. In Monte Carlo last month, Nadal also beat Djokovic in straight sets but that was not the real Novak. Distracted by the death of his grandfather three days earlier, his mind was never on the task at hand. Not so this time. He was perfectly primed for this 32nd duel with his great friend and rival after polishing his form with an excellent win over Roger Federer in the semifinal. And for much of the first set Djokovic looked like the more likely winner. As usual with these two, rallies of breathtaking length and intensity developed and, if they lasted beyond 10 strokes, which many did, the Serb was winning most of them. Significantly, by the end of the match Nadal had inched ahead 17-16 on this count. However, it was Nadal who broke first in the opening set, only to drop his own immediately in the sixth game. Looking ever more commanding, Djokovic should have reached set point when, at 5-4, 30-all, he hit a forehand that clipped the line. But it was called out. The umpire rightly overruled, but had to order the point to be replayed even though Nadal would never have reached it. Frustrated, Djokovic put a backhand long and the chance was gone. When he lost his own serve in the next game, he smashed his racket against the net post and received a conduct warning. Losing his serve in the opening game of the second set was the clincher. From that moment on, the world No. 1 was never steady enough to fight his way back into contention despite having Nadal 0-40 down in the second game and two break points down in the fourth. Suddenly mistakes started spinning off Novak's backhand as Nadal raced around the court, picking up drop shots, hitting smashes and generally looking like the real King of Clay. Djokovic, certainly, never played well enough in that second set to deprive him of the crown.
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