Nadal beats Djokovic to win 9th Italian Open; Pliskova takes women's title

Rafael Nadal Feeling better every week gives me personal satisfaction

Defending champion Rafael Nadal swept past Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 to advance to his 50th Masters final and first on clay this season at the Italian Open on Saturday.

Nadal's 6-0 opening set was the first bagel between the two in now 144 total sets.

With eight-time victor Nadal breezing past Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 6-4 to claim the first final spot, Djokovic started strongly, despatching some typically composed shots to wrap up the first set, capping it off with a wonderful drop-shot in the final game following a terrific rally.

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.

The match will be especially important to Nadal, who has reached his first clay-court final of the season and will now seek to win his first ATP Tour title since August 2018. Fresher legs matter in a match like this where both guys know each other so well and points will be hard fought.

Before the clash, Djokovic snubbed Roger Federer by naming Nadal as his "greatest rival" in the sport.

The eight-time Rome victor had been stunned by Tsitsipas, seeded eighth, in the semi-finals at the Madrid Open last weekend.

Djokovic played over three hours against Del Potro and his match against Schwartzman ended late and wasn't any easier physically.

It was a measure of revenge for Nadal after losing to Tsitsipas in three sets at this stage in Madrid last week.

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Sixth seed Bertens now goes through to meet Britain's Johanna Konta, who battled past Czech Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

A break in each set was enough for the former world number one to get past Konta, sealing victory on her third match point after 85 minutes on court. "I don't care much", Nadal said.

"But, as I said, for me I don't want to talk about Grand Slams now".

The frustration was evident on the world number one's face. Had my chances in first couple games, I thought, in the third set.

"Rafa was simply too strong today", the Serb said.

"In the third, I definitely felt that I was able to maintain my level a bit better than her".

"I woke up this morning and I couldn't really move my thumb", the 21-year-old said. He's been playing some terrific tennis throughout the entire week.

Federer, a quarter-finalist in Madrid, was playing in the Italian capital to prepare for his return to the French Open for the first time since 2015.

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