Rafael Nadal heads to Roland Garros to play for the 21st Grand Slam title, beating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic 7–5, 1–6, 6–3 in the Italian Open final on Sunday.
Nadal, 34, who claimed a record-extending 10th ATP Masters 1000 title in Rome, felt his game had improved through the week and would rest for a couple of days back home before heading to Paris for his title defence.
“I think I can work on a couple of things that I can do a little bit better or I can keep confirming that I am on the way,” he told reporters on Sunday, after his 57th showdown with Djokovic ended in 2 hours, 49 minutes.
The two have won 15 of the last 17 Rome titles between them but Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 4–2. The victory also puts Nadal equal Djokovic’s tally of 36 ATP Masters 1000 trophies.
“I think I have been improving this week, but I need to keep going with that improvement, because when you improve and you’re able to do it every day for a longer time, then you feel more confident and safer.
“So I just need to keep going. I know what I need to work (on) for the next couple of weeks, and I (am) going to do it.”
“I really wanted this 10th here in Rome. It was one of the first important titles that I won in my career,” Nadal said.
“After achieving 10 in Roland Garros, 10 in Monte-Carlo, 10 in Barcelona, I really wanted this one.
“I went through a lot of things during the week. Some positive, some great moments, some lucky moments, suffering moments. In the end, I think I played a very solid week of tennis, it’s the right moment to win an important title.”
“I was happy to play him because of the fine-tuning for Roland Garros…that doesn’t get bigger of a challenge on clay than playing Rafa in finals,” said Djokovic.
“Of course I’m disappointed not to win it, but at the same time I’m very pleased with the level of tennis that I managed to find in the later stages of this tournament.
“Going into Paris brings me a good sensation. I actually now started to feel like I actually want to feel on clay. So I think if I manage to play the way I played the last two days here, I think I have a good chance to go all the way in Paris.”
Next, Djokovic will play a tournament at home in Belgrade the week before the French Open kicks off on May 30 and will hope to arrive in Paris with a few more matches under his belt.