Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to win ninth Italian Open title

Rafael Nadal has set up a rematch with Stefanos Tsitsipas who beat the former world No 1 in Madrid. Clive Brunskill  Getty Images

Rafael Nadal withstood a fearless fightback from Novak Djokovic to earn his ninth Italian Open title with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 victory over the world No. 1 in Rome. It was the first time there has been a 6-0 set during a meeting between the two rivals.

Djokovic provided a sterner test for the Spaniard in the second set, impressively saving three break points at 3-3 before going on to break Nadal to win the set.

But Nadal, an 11-time French Open champion, broke immediately in a tense deciding set and showed trademark tenacity to finish off his Serbian opponent, who dumped a final backhand volley into the net.

Pliskova, the 2017 French Open semi-finalist, clinched her 13th career title, in the final major warm-up tournament on clay before Roland Garros starts on May 26.

"I don't want to talk about fatigue or things like that", Djokovic said.

But tennis pundit Hantuchova thinks the Serbian is happy with himself despite his loss and thinks that, if he can get himself in the same frame of mind for the French Open, not even 11-time Roland Garros victor Nadal can stop him.

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

There was much concern surrounding the physical state of Nadal, 32, before last week after three consecutive semi-final defeats in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

In the women's singles final, Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova swept past Britain's Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-4 to win the WTA Italian Open.

Speaking to reporters later, Djokovic said, "I was just running out of fuel a little bit today. For sure I can't wait to be there and have the feeling, see the stadium, watch all the new great things that Roland Garros is doing", the 17-time Grand Slam victor said of the rebuilt Philippe Chatrier Centre Court. After dropping just six total games in wins over Jeremy Chardy, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Fernando Verdasco, the King of Clay got revenge against Stefanos Tsitsipas-who beat Nadal in Madrid-in straight sets in the semis. "A great match in all aspects, I'm so happy for that".

Reigning US and Australian Open champion Osaka withdrew with a stiff right hand giving Madrid Open victor Kiki Bertens a ticket to the semi-final.

"I am not 100 per cent physically and after consultation with my team, it was determined that I not play", he said.

The frustration was evident on the world number one's face.

In the second set, Pliskova used a swinging forehand volley putaway to break for a 4-3 lead and never looked back.

"In the second set, it was better", said Djokovic. She plays with big shots, quite flat, and big serves.

"It was huge, especially for Rafa", Hantuchova said in her analysis of the match.

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