Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to claim Italian Open title
Rafael Nadal won a record 34th Masters 1000 title with a 6-0 4-6 6-1 victory over Novak Djokovic in the Italian Open final on Sunday.
The Spaniard, who had shared the record of 33 Masters titles with the Serbian world No 1, warmed up for the defence of his French Open crown by securing his ninth Rome title.
Nadal got off to a flying start by whitewashing a shell shocked Djokovic in the opening set. It was the first time there has been a 6-0 set during a meeting between the two rivals.
Djokovic took the second by breaking Nadal's serve for the first time while leading 5-4, but the second seed responded in style by storming through the decisive set for his first title of 2019 - just in time for his usual tilt at yet another French Open title.
Nadal's victory in Rome moves him one clear of the world No 1 in all-time Masters titles
"Winning a title is important but for me the most important thing is feel myself competitive, feel myself healthy," Nadal said before heading for home and then on to Paris as he targets a remarkable 12th crown at Roland Garros.
"Then with the feeling that I am improving. I know if I'm able to reach my level you can win, you can lose, but normally I'm going to have my chances, especially on this surface."
World No 1 Djokovic was never quite at his best, showing signs of fatigue after more than five hours on court in his previous two matches against Juan Martin del Potro and Diego Schwartzman.
"I don't want to talk about fatigue or things like that - Rafa was simply too strong today," said Djokovic, who received a warning from the chair umpire after smashing his racket to the clay three times in frustration.
The Serb, who won the year's opening Grand Slam in Australia for his 15th major title, will head to Paris chasing only a second title in the French capital and he hasn't gone beyond the last eight since the victory in 2016.
That title saw Djokovic hold all four major titles at the same time - a feat he can match again this year if he wins, but Nadal looks in the mood to halt the Serb's consecutive major streak at three.