Rafael Nadal is correct again the place he desires to be.

After dropping within the semifinals of three straight clay-court tournaments, Nadal dominated for stretches in opposition to his longtime rival, Novak Djokovic, in a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 win Sunday for a record-extending ninth Italian Open title.

“You had been asking for titles. Lastly I’ve a title,” Nadal instructed reporters. “Right here we’re. Necessary title, necessary second.”

It marked the primary time in an Open Period-record 54 conferences, and of their 142nd set in opposition to one another, that Nadal gained a set in opposition to Djokovic with out conceding a recreation — in any other case often known as a bagel.

In all, Nadal had a career-high 4 bagel units on this event.

“I performed an awesome first set in all elements. No errors. Taking part in so aggressive, altering instructions,” Nadal mentioned. “It is not standard and doubtless is not going to occur once more.”

The timing for Nadal’s return to kind couldn’t have been extra opportune, as he’ll search a record-extending 12th title on the French Open beginning subsequent weekend.

“Profitable a title is necessary however for me a very powerful factor is (to) really feel myself aggressive, really feel myself wholesome,” Nadal mentioned. “Then with the sensation that I’m enhancing. I do know if I will attain my degree you’ll be able to win, you’ll be able to lose, however usually I’ll have my possibilities — particularly on this floor.

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“Now could be the second to maintain going,” Nadal added.

Within the ladies’s closing, Karolina Pliskova captured the largest clay-court trophy of her profession by beating Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-4.

High-ranked Djokovic, in the meantime, appeared exhausted after spending greater than 5 ½ hours on court docket in opposition to Juan Martin del Potro and Diego Schwartzman the earlier two days.

Djokovic was additionally coming off the Madrid Open title final week.

“I do not wish to speak about fatigue or issues like that,” Djokovic instructed the gang in the course of the post-match ceremony. “Rafa was just too sturdy right now.”

Talking to reporters later, Djokovic mentioned, “I used to be simply operating out of gas somewhat bit right now. Simply type of missed that half a step, particularly on the backhand aspect.”

The Foro Italico crowd frequently tried to encourage Djokovic with chants of “Vai Nole!” — Go Nole! — however the top-ranked Serb struggled along with his overhead and drop photographs.

Halfway via the second set, Nadal chased down a lob with an over-the-shoulder shot and Djokovic’s ensuing overhead landed within the web to conclude a protracted level.

Djokovic once more netted an overhead within the subsequent recreation after which kicked the ball in frustration when he missed a drop shot try late within the second.

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However Djokovic hung round within the second and transformed his first set level when a looping forehand from Nadal sailed extensive for his first break of the match. As he walked to his chair after profitable the second set, Djokovic waved his arms to get the gang behind him.

Nonetheless, Djokovic did not have a lot left within the tank.

When Nadal pushed Djokovic deep into the nook within the opening recreation of the third set and Djokovic’s desperation lob sailed lengthy at hand Nadal a break, Djokovic smashed his racket to the clay 3 times in frustration and obtained a warning from the chair umpire.

Djokovic gained solely 29 % of the factors on his second serve and dedicated 39 unforced errors to Nadal’s 17. Additionally, Nadal gained 23 of the 31 rallies with 9 or extra photographs.

PLISKOVA NO. 2

Pliskova’s victory will transfer her as much as No. 2 within the rankings and makes her one of many contenders for Roland Garros.

“I simply hope to take the tennis I used to be enjoying right here to Paris,” Pliskova mentioned. “For certain there’s going to be an opportunity for me if I play this manner.”

The 2016 U.S. Open runner-up, Pliskova additionally reached the Australian Open semifinals and the Miami Open closing after opening this season with a title in Brisbane, Australia. However she misplaced within the second spherical of her earlier two tournaments on clay in Stuttgart, Germany, and Madrid.

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“No one actually gave me likelihood for this event — even me,” Pliskova mentioned. “Earlier than the event, I used to be not tremendous assured, not enthusiastic about the ultimate in any respect. I used to be simply pleased with each match which I performed. So it is little bit like a miracle for me.”

The unseeded Konta appeared nervous at first, double faulting then touchdown a backhand into the web at hand Pliskova a break in her opening service recreation.

Within the second set, Pliskova used a swinging forehand volley putaway to interrupt for a 4-Three lead and by no means regarded again.

“It is all the time robust enjoying Karolina,” Konta mentioned. “There’s hardly ever actually a rhythm to the match. She performs with massive photographs, fairly flat, and massive serves. It will possibly really feel generally you are combating an uphill battle. That was the case right now.”

Pliskova attributed loads of her success to Conchita Martinez, the four-time Rome champion who she not too long ago named her head coach.

“She cherished clay so she is aware of precisely what I ought to do,” Pliskova mentioned of Martinez. “There have been small variations: motion, possibly to place extra topspin on the balls, use drop photographs — which I by no means use, however I begin little bit, and to combine additionally the serves. … I do know she cherished this event. I feel she prayed so I might win right now.”

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