Djokovic throws down gauntlet to Nadal with Rome win

Sun May 18, 2014 3:39pm EDT
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By Terry Daley

ROME (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic laid down the gauntlet ahead of Roland Garros when he came from a set down to dismantle claycourt king Rafael Nadal in the Italian Open final on Sunday.

The Serb's 4-6 6-3 6-3 victory was his fourth successive victory over Nadal but only his fourth on clay in their 41-match head-to-head series dating back to 2006.

After a slow start in which he twice dropped serve, Djokovic took control of the baseline rallies and finished the match with a flurry of precision groundstrokes that had Nadal reeling.

"Beating Rafa on clay is definitely a confidence booster," Djokovic, who claimed his third Rome title and the 44th of his career, told reporters.

"Let's hope it's something I can take into Roland Garros."

Beating Nadal in the French capital is a different proposition altogether but the way Djokovic managed to dominate the Spanish world No.1 augurs well for his chances of completing his career grand slam next month.

He has won eight of the last nine sets they have contested.

"It's been a great week considering where I was a few weeks ago with the wrist injury," said an emotional Djokovic, who was making his comeback in Rome after injuring himself in the Monte Carlo Masters last month and missing the Madrid Masters.   Continued...

Novak Djokovic of Serbia holds the trophy after winning the men's singles final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Rome Masters tennis tournament May 18, 2014. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito