With the French Open looming large on the horizon, two greats of the game will look to inject some positivity into their campaigns at Roland Garros by collecting the title at the ATP Rome Masters. It is a title both men have lifted before, but who will come out on top on Sunday?
ATP Rome Masters Final Prediction
Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal
Head-to-head: Djokovic 29-27 Nadal
Novak Djokovic arrived at the ATP Rome Masters after a broadly disappointing showing on the clay. He lost in the third round in Monte Carlo to Dan Evans – hardly a clay-court specialist – before crashing out in the semifinals in Belgrade, where Aslan Karatsev beat him in three sets. Djokovic then elected not to defend his title in Madrid. After a first-round bye, he opened his campaign in Rome against Taylor Fritz, beating the American 6-3 7-6.
Djokovic then dispatched Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for the loss of only three games to reach the quarterfinals. Waiting for him there was Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek had the better of the early exchanges, winning the first set 6-4. But, although Tsitsipas led by a break in both the second and third sets, the fifth seed was not able to see of Djokovic’s challenge. Instead the Serbian rallied to a 4-6 7-5 7-5 victory. He then survived another tough test up against Lorenzo Sonego to book his place in the final with a 6-3 6-7 6-2 win.
Rafael Nadal had also fallen short of the high standards he has set over the course of his career during the early weeks of the clay-court season. The Spaniard did win the title at the ATP Barcelona Open, but lost in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo and Madrid. That left him with work to do at the ATP Rome Masters, but so far the Spaniard has performed under pressure. In the second round, Nadal battled past Jannik Sinner, coming from a break down in both sets to win 7-5 6-4.
Nadal was under pressure again in the third round, with Denis Shapovalov storming out to a 4-0 lead in the first set. But Nadal dug in and although he was not able to rescue the opening set, he eventually recorded a 3-6 6-4 7-6 win. Nadal then avenged the defeat he suffered at the hands of Alexander Zverev in Madrid with a 6-3 6-4 win in the quarterfinals. In the last four, he dismissed the challenge of Reilly Opelka in straight-sets to reach the final.
He may well like his chances of heading home with the trophy. Djokovic leads their head-to-head, but Nadal has the edge on clay. This will be their eighth meeting in Rome and Nadal has won five of those matches. He has also won 18 of their 25 clay-court matches. Djokovic will keep this competitive – it is not for nothing that he has won five titles in Rome – but Nadal’s relentless defence and domineering forehand should see him over the line against the Serbian.
Prediction: Nadal in 3
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