Nadal to face Djokovic in Italian Open final

Published by AP / Tennismash

Rafael Nadal is looking to win his first title of 2019 in Rome; Getty Images
Rafael Nadal will face Novak Djokovic in the Rome final following a straight-sets win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Rafael Nadal was in dominant form as he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 6-4 to set up an Italian Open final against Novak Djokovic.

It was a measure of revenge for Nadal after losing to Tsitsipas at the same stage in Madrid last week.

The victory ended a run of three straight semifinal defeats on clay as Nadal looks to build form and confidence before he seeks a 12th title at the French Open.

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“The main thing is I am playing better. If I play better, I know I’m going to have chances to be in finals and to win semifinal matches,” Nadal said.

“If you are not playing well, (beating) the best players of the world is much more difficult … I have margin to keep improving.”

In Sunday’s final, Nadal will resume his rivalry with world No.1 Djokovic, who faced an unusually high number of drop shots from Diego Schwartzman before winning 6-3 6-7(7) 6-3.

It will be the 54th career meeting between Djokovic and Nadal, with Djokovic leading the series 28-25. The pair have split the four Italian Open finals they have played and last met in the Australian Open final, won by Djokovic.

“He’s my greatest rival of all time,” Djokovic said.

“Every time we get to play each other it’s a thrill. It’s the ultimate challenge.”

Nadal is aiming for a record-extending ninth trophy in Rome while Djokovic is seeking his fifth title at the Foro Italico.

Nadal is in the middle of his longest title drought to begin a season since he came onto the scene in 2004, with his last trophy coming in August in Toronto.

The crowd attempted to encourage Tsitsipas with chants of “Tsi-Tsi-Tsi, Pas-Pas-Pas” but the 20-year-old Greek player could not keep up with Nadal in the long rallies – even though he did not play a day earlier after Roger Federer withdrew injured from their quarterfinal.

“The shots that I played today, I played similar shots last week,” Tsitsipas said.

“Today those shots felt really slow and he had plenty of time to pass me when I was approaching to the net … the court speed was the difference.”

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