Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal 7-5, 7-6(4) in a thrilling quarter-final clash on Friday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
Nole rallied from a break down in both sets to thwart Nadal in two hours and 25 minutes. It marked the Serb’s seventh straight win over Nadal and saw him improve to a 26-23 advantage in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. He has won 15 straight sets against Nadal since the Spaniard prevailed in their 2014 Roland Garros final contest.
“I held my nerve at the clutch moments,” said Djokovic in an on-court TV interview. “Even though I had nervy beginnings to both sets, with some good games and good play in the crucial moments, I managed to win. It’s a straight-sets win, but it feels like we played five sets.
“Winning against Nadal is the ultimate challenge on clay courts and one of the toughest challenges we have in sport. I have to be very pleased with the way I handled myself in the big moments today. I won against one of my biggest rivals on his preferred surface. We must not forget he’s in form. He won Monte-Carlo and Barcelona and has played well the past couple of weeks. That gives me confidence for the rest of this tournament.”
“I was fortunate in important moments,” said Djokovic. “But I managed to take him out of his comfort zone in important moments and didn’t give him always the same look. I thought he played high quality tennis. He tried to step in. He was trying to play aggressive. But towards the end, I guess I was a bit more fortunate.”
Between them, Nadal and Djokovic have accounted for the past 11 editions of this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament. Nadal has lifted the trophy seven times, with Djokovic winning the title in the past two years to add to his victories in 2008 and 2011.