Rafael Nadal dominates Novak Djokovic in Italian Open

Novak Djokovic 'Juan Martin played great but I always believed I can win'

Rafael Nadal claimed a record 34th ATP Masters 1000 title with a three-set victory over Novak Djokovic in the Italian Open final.

The Spaniard, who had shared the record of 33 Masters titles with the Serbian world number one, warmed up for the defence of his Roland Garros crown by securing his ninth Rome title.

The timing for Nadal's return to form could not have been more opportune, as he will seek a record-extending 12th title at the French Open starting next weekend.

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

Nadal got off to a flying start by whitewashing a shellshocked Djokovic in the opening set.

And the Serb will also be reassured by knowing that, due to some of the absurd scheduling in Rome, his legs were not as strong for this encounter as they will be over the Parisian fortnight.

But Rafael Nadal remains at the top of the list of French Open contenders with six days to go before the second grand-slam of the year gets under way.

But even though the world No.1 had played into the wee hours of Saturday to defeat Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 in over three hours in the quarterfinals, a match in which he had to save two match points in the second-set tiebreaker, the Serbian still had enough left in the tank to overcome Schwartzman in the third set.

"She loved clay so she knows exactly what I should do", Pliskova said of Martinez.

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"What means most to me is this trophy", Nadal said after winning his first title of the season. "I'm very happy for the victory, I played well".

"I feel like he needed to win this match more than Novak just for the fact last time he won a title was Toronto past year".

Djokovic played better in winning the second and fought off four break points before finding an opportunistic break of his own in the final game to get level.

"It's not a drama to lose in semi-finals". "Today those shots felt really slow and he had plenty of time to pass me when I was approaching to the net".

Del Potro had pulled out of Indian Wells and Miami with a knee injury, but matched Madrid Open victor Nadal shot for shot, wrapping up the first set 6-4 in a little more than an hour.

Earlier in the day, Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova swept past Britain's Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-4 to win the WTA Italian Open final. Dominic Thiem is playing some really, really good tennis. "I think it's going to be a great tournament".

"This year, I don't see a big difference".

Karolina Pliskova beat Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari in the other semifinal, 6-4, 6-4.

In the second set, Pliskova used a swinging forehand volley putaway to break for a 4-3 lead and never looked back.

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