Nadal defeats Djokovic to win Italian Open

Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open final

Rafael Nadal claimed his first title of the year after defeating world number one Novak Djokovic 6-0 4-6 6-1 in the Italian Open final in Rome.

The Spaniard raced through the opener in 39 minutes, the first 6-0 between the great rivals in 141 previous sets.

Djokovic battled back, but in the Rome sunshine Nadal sealed his ninth Italian Open title in two hours, 25 minutes.

It was his 81st tournament win and it takes him 34-33 ahead of Djokovic in Masters 1,000 Series titles.

Since 2005, Nadal has won at least one of the nine Masters 1,000 events in a season every year except 2015.

He was beaten by Djokovic in the Australian Open final in January, and had lost at the semi-final stage in his past four tournaments.

Djokovic had saved two match points in his quarter-final win over Juan Martin del Potro that finished at 1.05am local time on Saturday and then had another three-set encounter later that evening against Diego Schwartzman which lasted two hours, 31 minutes.

The 54th meeting between the world’s top two players saw the Serb, perhaps sufferings the effects of those two gruelling matches, overwhelmed by Nadal, who was ruthless with his trademark forehand.

To tumultuous acclaim from the capacity crowd, Djokovic forged his first break point opportunity of the match in the fourth game of the second set, but a magnificent, whirling forehand into the corner from Nadal soon eradicated it.

However the 31-year-old showed his famous powers of resolve, firing some fierce returns as he took the next chance to break, which sealed the set in 59 minutes.

Nadal broke in the opening game of the decider, prompting Djokovic to demolish his racquet in frustration and with the Serb continuing to falter with drop shot attempts, Nadal surged to a 58th clay court title.

It reduced his career deficit against Djokovic to 28-26, improving his record on clay against him to 17-7.

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Konta beaten by Pliskova in Italian Open final

Johanna Konta

British number one Johanna Konta’s wait for a first WTA clay-court title continues after she lost to Karolina Pliskova in the Italian Open final.

Czech world number seven Pliskova won 6-3 6-4 in one hour 25 minutes in Rome for her second title of the season.

Konta, 28, beat two top-10 players to reach the final and earned a seeding at the French Open starting on 26 May.

“I’m super pleased with how I’ve been progressing this year and improving in every match,” said Konta.

“This is my second biggest final after Miami. This is a big moment for me. I’m very pleased to be making that progress.”

Konta was the first British woman to reach the Italian Open final since Virginia Wade in 1971, while Pliskova is the first Czech woman to win it since 1978.

Konta did not recover from being broken in her opening service game, and against at 3-3 in the second.

Pliskova required three match points to secure victory and claim her first title since the Brisbane International in January.

‘What a week for Konta’ – analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

Pliskova was the sharper player and allowed Konta a look at just one break point.

The serve remains the foundation of Pliskova’s game, but she has developed into a very accomplished clay-court player, and will be the second seed at the French Open.

Konta could not reproduce the stunning form she found earlier in the tournament, but what a week – a season-changing week.

She will no longer be at the mercy of the draw come the French Open, and almost certainly Wimbledon too. As a seed, she cannot player anyone else in the world’s top 32 until at least the third round.

Konta’s tour results before April were unspectacular, but she now sits 13th in the annual rankings race. And she has also won six Fed Cup matches for her country, which aren’t taken into consideration.

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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Amgen Women’s Race: Moolman-Pasio third overall after vertebral compression injury

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) had targeted the Ardennes classics and the mountainous Tour of California Women’s Race – but a crash in the final sprint at Amstel Gold Race forced a change in priorities upon her.

“I crashed hard in the sprint for eighth. I launched my sprint and got switched, so I went from full speed to nothing and hit my back hard. I tried not to make much of it because Flèche Wallonne was two days away and that was my goal. It started to materialise that it was more serious than what I wanted to accept, to be honest,” she told Cyclingnews.

Flèche Wallonne is always a big goal for Moolman-Pasio, and after a second place in 2018 she was eager to line up and race. She finished seventh. Four days later she had to abandon Liège-Bastogne-Liège and finally went for a check-up of her injury.

“Two weeks ago, I had an MRI scan,” she explains. “The doctor said it would be three weeks off the bike because I had compression of the L4 and L5 vertebrae. They were worried the compressed disc could become herniated. I thought my whole season was gone. There was trauma in the area, haematoma, tight muscles, and a bruised sacrum.

“I had some hard talks and got advice from the team doctor and my coach. The sports doctors have a less conservative approach, to take one week off and then see how the back responded. I took that week off, then I started training again. It was important to focus on massage work and stretching to try to help the back.”

To recover from injury while simultaneously adjusting to the time difference from Europe, Moolman-Pasio went to Boulder, Colorado where she eased back into training.

“I got a lot of support in Boulder and took my time. It was a change of scenery, a beautiful place, and it was great to really reset in a totally new environment. I was still having pain up until Friday last week, but then things turned. It’s looking good now. I still have bruising in the sacrum, but I can’t do any further damage. It’s just pain and it will subside.”

Returning from injury to finish third overall at the Tour of California is a remarkable performance. While Moolman-Pasio wouldn’t have been satisfied with this result under regular circumstances, she is upbeat about what it says about her recovery.

“Before the crash, the Tour of California was a priority race. I would have been disappointed with third because I would have been going for the victory. But because of the crash and having to take a week off the bike after Liège, I had to shift my mindset to this race being part of the build-up. I’m happy with third place considering where I’m coming from. It is a good indication of what is to come; the next big target will be the Giro Rosa.”

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