Rafael Nadal claimed a record 34th ATP Masters 1000 title with a three-set victory over Novak Djokovic in the Italian Open final.
The defending champion triumphed 6-0 4-6 6-1 in two hours and 25 minutes in Rome 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 shellshocked Djokovic in the opening set.
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.
After losing in the semi-finals of three straight clay-court tournaments, Nadal admitted this was a big statement ahead of Roland Garros.
“You were asking for titles. Finally I have a title,” Nadal told reporters.
“Here we are. Important title, important moment.”
It also marked the first time in an Open Era-record 54 meetings, and in their 142nd set against each other, that Nadal won a set against Djokovic without conceding a game – otherwise known as a bagel.
“I played a great first set in all aspects. No mistakes. Playing so aggressive, changing directions,” Nadal said.
“It’s not usual and probably will not happen again.”
Djokovic, who coming off the Madrid Open title last week, refused to use fatigue as an excuse.
“Rafa was simply too strong today,” the Serb said.
“I was just running out of fuel a little bit today. Just kind of missed that half a step, especially on the backhand side.”