Flashback: Djokovic Begins New Chapter Against Nadal With Third Rome Crown

Serbian claims first of four clay victories against Nadal from 2014 to 2016

Novak Djokovic entered the 2014 Internazionali BNL d’Italia final with three victories from 16 ATP Head2Head clashes against Rafael Nadal on clay.

His performance on that day in the Italian capital marked a new chapter in their rivalry.

The Serbian, competing at No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, ended World No. 1 Nadal’s bid for an eighth Rome trophy with a three-set victory. It proved to be the first of four wins for Djokovic from five clay-court matches against Nadal between the 2014 and 2016 editions of the event. It remains the most successful period in Djokovic’s career against Nadal on the surface.

Djokovic v Nadal on Clay (Rome 2014 through Rome 2016)

Year Event Winner Score
2014 Rome Djokovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
2014 Roland Garros Nadal 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
2015 Monte Carlo Djokovic 6-3, 6-3
2015 Roland Garros Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 6-1
2016 Rome Djokovic 7-5, 7-6(4)

Djokovic had battled through the field to reach his fifth final in Rome (2-2). After beating Radek Stepanek in straight sets in the first round, the 26-year-old was forced to deciding sets by Philipp Kohlschreiber and Top 10 stars David Ferrer and Milos Raonic.

Fresh from his Mutua Madrid Open triumph, Nadal was also tested en route to the championship match in Rome. The Manacor native survived three-set clashes against Gilles Simon, Mikhail Youzhny and Andy Murray, before a 6-2, 6-2 semi-final victory against Grigor Dimitrov.

After dropping the opening set, Djokovic earned an early break in the second set and pushed the Spaniard behind the baseline with aggressive groundstrokes to force the match to a decider. The two rivals traded early breaks in the third set, before Djokovic made the crucial breakthrough at 3-3. The 18-time Masters 1000 titlist soaked up the pressure from the back of the court to break serve and, two games later, took the title after two hours and 19 minutes with his sixth service break.

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“I've had some tough matches. Four out of five matches were three-setters and I had to come back from one set down yesterday against Raonic and today again. That gives me a lot of confidence,” said Djokovic. “Winning against Rafa in the final of a big tournament on clay, his preferred surface, is definitely a confidence booster.”

With his 44th tour-level trophy, Djokovic moved to within 650 points of the World No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Despite falling to Nadal in the Roland Garros final, Djokovic eventually overtook the Spaniard in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 7 July 2014 after winning his second Wimbledon trophy. The Serbian maintained the position until 7 November 2016.

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