Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are set for another titanic showdown in the final of the Rome Masters on Sunday, with the Spaniard keen to restore order over the Serb who is on the hunt for his World No.1 title.
Indeed Nadal has not had to wait long to try and avenge last week’s final result in Madrid, where he succumbed to Djokovic in straight sets.
That defeat signalled a possible change at the head of the World Rankings, however Nadal’s progression to this week’s final in the Italian capital, ensures that he will begin the French Open still as top dog.
Nevertheless, Nadal will feel that a title success in Rome is imperative as he bids to wrestle back a large portion of the momentum and impetus which Djokovic has built in recent weeks.
The Serbian took his hot winning streak to 36 matches following Saturday’s epic semi-final success over Andy Murray and he is undoubtedly the player in form and the man who has consistently played the best tennis so far in 2011.
Sunday’s final however should allow clay king Nadal the opportunity to get even – certainly if fitness is anything to go by.
Although Rafa began the week slowly (and poorly for that matter) with a three set struggle over Paulo Lorenzi, he has subsequently been relatively untroubled and untested en route to the final – including in his semi-final straight sets win over Richard Gasquet.
Djokovic however, came through a real war against Murray who pushed him to the limit late into the night on Saturday. By the end of that contest, the World No.2 looked in desperate need of a rest.
With Sunday’s showpiece set to commence barely hours after that slog, Nadal could – and should hold all the aces on this occasion.
Fitness margins are incredibly important in tennis and if Djokovic is to show even the slightest sign of fatigue against Nadal, he will be punished severely.
Furthermore, the Spaniard is still the best player on clay that the world has ever seen and that has not changed regardless of last week’s loss to Djokovic. Those notions may change should the Serb confirm the form this week, but a repeat is probably not the likely outcome for most people – particularly as Nadal was to some degree below par in Madrid seven days ago.