- Internazionali BNL d'Italia
Nadal cruises to seventh Rome title
Rafael Nadal put in a sparkling performance to outclass Roger Federer and win his seventh Internazionali BNL d'Italia title, only dropping four games in a 6-1 6-3 victory to defend his championship at the Foro Italico.
With arguably the performance of his season to date, world No. 5 Nadal simply cruised to his 41st career title on clay and inflicted a 20th ATP Tour defeat on his rival in perfect preparation for the upcoming French Open.
In 2006, the pair met in Rome and played out one of the greatest clay-court finals ever seen, as a 19-year-old Nadal stormed to his 53rd consecutive victory on the surface after over five hours on court.
Seven years on, the story could not have been barely different as the Spaniard only needed one hour and nine minutes to dismiss Federer in devastating fashion.
Federer began with his intentions clear, attacking close to the net to win three of his four points in the opening service game to hold. Nadal followed, serving his first ace of the match to level as both players looked to settle quickly in the blustery conditions on the Centrale court.
Nadal was first to prosper, as a lacklustre second service game from Federer allowed him an early opportunity to break. An impressive hold to love gave the seven-time French Open champion daylight, before a multitude of powerful ground strokes ensured a double break to leave Federer reeling.
Federer simply could not cope with his opponent in the first, as Nadal went on a run of 21 points out of a possible 26 to move further clear. The fifth seed wrapped up the opening set in 23 minutes following an unforced error from the Swiss.
World No. 3 Federer had only beaten Nadal twice on clay prior to their Sunday meet, and it soon became clear as to why; Nadal rallied from two points down on his own serve, before further unsettling Federer with a fierce cross-court backhand to break once more.
After dropping nine consecutive games, Federer stopped the rot with a hold after deuce but it failed to disrupt Nadal's destructive rhythm. The second seed offered a brief resistance with a break and hold, but by then the damage had already been inflicted.
Nadal promptly served out for the championship and issued a stern statement ahead of his Roland Garros defence later in May.