Defending champion Alexander Zverev  was unable to fend off Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open on Sunday, as Nadal outlasted the German 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 for his record 8th title in Rome.

Zverev got off to a good start in the match by breaking Nadal’s first service game, but Rafa answered back by winning the next 16 of 19 points to go up 4-1. 2 games later and the first set was Nadal’s.

For the second set, things couldn’t have gone more differently than they did in the 1st.  It was Zverev that was dictating the points and playing much more aggressive.  The number 3 seed took the set easily, 6-1.

The third set began with Zverev asserting that he was determined to push Rafa to the limit. He broke Nadal on his service game and found himself in a good position, holding the lead at 3-1. Then came the rain, causing a 50 minute delay and an immediate shift in the momentum.  The Spaniard came roaring back to rattle off 5 consecutive games to win the match and yet another clay title.

Surprisingly, it is the first title for Nadal in Rome since 2013, and the first time he has made it past the quarter-finals since 2014.

Zverev4

In losing the match, Zverev has still never beaten Nadal in their 5 encounters.

Zverev had been hoping for his 3rd title in a row after winning at the BMW Open and Madrid Open.  He now stands at 26-8 on the year.

With the victory, Nadal jumps back up to number 1 after vacating it for just 1 week to Federer.

Rafa also breaks a 4th place tie with John McEnroe to go up to 78 career titles in the Open Era.  He is next looking to catch Ivan Lendl, who is in 3rd place with 94 titles.

All eyes now go to Paris, where Nadal will be bidding for a record 11th French Open title. That tournament will start next Sunday.

Featured Image Credit:  Reuters UK

Photo Credit:  news4europe

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