The major tournaments leading to the grand slam on clay concluded with the Internazionale d’Italia in Rome at the weekend. This year, the tennis fiesta took on greater importance as it decided the top spot in the rankings. Rafael Nadal showed, again, that he is the all-time king on the clay court, as he battled through and overcame all obstacles to win the title and add the 1000 points he needed to regain the number one ranking.
In the quarterfinal, Nadal faced a possible upset by Fabio Fognini, who had dismissed Dominic Thiem. The dashing Italian took the first set 6-4 on a single break of his opponent’s serve. The raised hope of the partisan home crowd was deflated when Nadal ran through the second set 6/1 and sustained the onslaught to win the third set 6/3.
While Marin Cilic had a surprisingly easy match against Pablo Carreno Busta, Novak Djokovic needed three sets in defeating Kei Nishikori and Alexander Zverev survived a 6/4; 3/6; 6/3 duel with David Goffin.
In the semifinals, Zverev prevailed in a 15-13 tie break in the first set and a 7/5 second set to defeat Cilic. In a battle of champions, Nadal won the first set tiebreak seven points to four and won the second set on a single break of Novak Djokovi’cs serve.
The classic final pitched the top two seeds in a match of succession. The German star came to Rome with an impressive run and won his first three matches without dropping a set. If anyone would stop Nadal Sascha was the one. However, the Matador on a mission rolled over the aspirant 6/1 in the first set. Expectations of a quick match were dashed Zverev avenged by taking the second set 6/1. The title hung on the third set. Nadal’s prowess in returning serves helped towards the finish line. He won 59 percent of points played after returning his opponent’s serves. He was rewarded by breaking his opponent’s serve just once to win the third set 6/3.
The victory in Rome was Nadal’s eighth title and gave him the top spot in the rankings. This is great for the seedings in his quest for the 11th title in Paris. There are two tournaments in the week preceding Roland Garros. The top seeds will not take part in the 250-point events in Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon in France or the Studza Geneva Open in Switzerland.In the new rankings, Nadal and Roger Federer are miles ahead of others with 8770 and 8670 points respectively. The players in the next pack are 3000 points below Federer.
Alexander Zverev is in the third spot followed by Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Juan Martin Del Potro respectively. Kevin Anderson leads the next pack in the seventh spot trailed successively by Dominic Thiem (who made a big drop in the clay court season), David Goffin and John Isner.
The margin between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer is only 100 ranking points. This indicates a continuing swop of the top two positions by this duo from the older generation. This is the prelude to Rolland Garros, while the outcome in Paris will determine the rankings and the seedings for the Wimbledon Championships in London.