Novak Djokovic pulled off an astonishing comeback in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2014 final this Sunday to defeat World no. 1 Rafael Nadal for the fourth time in a row and lift his third Rome Masters trophy after triumphing at the clay-court event in 2008 and 2011. It was the 41st ATP meeting between the highest ranked players and the second title clash Novak has won against the arch-rival this year following the straight sets victory in Miami. Rafa’s head-to-head advantage has thus been reduced to 22-19.
The king of clay, who was bidding for his eighth title in The Eternal City, was a dominant figure in the early stages of the highly anticipated encounter as he produced a triple break point in the game three before putting away a backhand volley for a 2-1 lead. He consolidated the break with a minimum of fuss and obtained a double break cushion to move 4-1 ahead. However, Nole’s determination almost paid off as he pegged one back and nearly stunned the top seed Spaniard again, yet the latter climbed out of 0-40 to serve for the set next – he remained composed and went 1-0 up after the second-seeded Serb sent a forehand return wide of the mark.
Even so, Novak took over the initiative in the set number two where he raced to 3-0. While Nadal eventually broke back, Djokovic reacted quickly to get his nose in front once more. No further break point opportunities were created in that part of the match which meant a decider would be played at the court Centrale in the Italian capital.
The Serbian champion kept dictating the terms in the final set where he broke in the initial game and got close to extending the gap between the finalists, yet Rafa escaped a couple of break point threats at 1-2 before clawing back to make it 3-3. He failed to turn the tide, though, as Nole stayed on top of his game and seized the last three games for a confidence-boosting 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory after two hours and nineteen minutes of tennis. Djokovic hit 7 aces (Nadal scored none) and prevailed in winning both first serve (71%-54%) and second serve rallies (56%-43%). He also generated 14 break points, eight more than his opponent.