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Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic Live Stream & Tips - Nadal to boss Djoker in Rome final

  • Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic predictions for Sunday’s Italian Open final
  • Nadal nine-time winner in Rome
  • Djokovic defending champion in Rome
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Nadal
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Dan Hunter 16 May 2021
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Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic Live Stream & Tips 


The top two seeds will contest the 2021 Italian Open final on Sunday, when defending champion Novak Djokovic takes on 9-time champion Rafael Nadal. This will be the ninth time these two players have faced each other in Rome, with Nadal leading by 5-3.

The Spaniard will likely have an advantage going into this match based purely off the fatigue factor. Nadal only had his semifinal against Reilly Opelka to play on Saturday, having completed his quarterfinal victory on Friday before the rain began. As Friday had progressed, the rain got heavier, causing the two remaining quarterfinal matches to be carried on into Saturday. Djokovic had to complete his match against Stefanos Tsitsipas on the morning, and then play his semifinal against crowd-favourite Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the evening. Sonego had defeated Andrey Rublev in three sets on Saturday morning. 


Nadal
(Getty Images)

Even without the fatigue factor, Nadal would likely have been favoured to win a 10th Italian Open title. Not for nothing is the Spaniard known as the “King of Clay”, and his 60+ clay-court titles include 12 Barcelona Opens, 11 Monte Carlo Masters and 13 French Opens. Djokovic himself is no slouch on clay, and his 15 clay-court titles include multiple Masters Series events plus the 2016 French Open Title.

I’m backing Rafael Nadal to win that tenth Rome title with a comprehensive straight-sets victory over Novak Djokovic on Sunday. The Spaniard will be out to make a statement prior to his French Open campaign, and will also be keen to move within one win of levelling his head-to-head with arch rival Djokovic that currently stands at 29-27.

  • Nadal world no.3
  • Nadal 17-3 in 2021
  • Djokovic world no.1
  • Djokovic 16-2 in 2021 

Head to Head 


Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have played each other a total of 56 times, making theirs the longest rivalry in the open era. Djokovic currently leads their head-to-head 29-27. They have faced each other 25 times on clay, with Nadal leading 18-7. Nadal has won their last four matches on the red dirt. These two have played each other five times at the Italian Open, all in finals, with Nadal 5-3 up. Their most recent match in Rome came in the 2019 final where Nadal triumphed 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. 

Their most recent match was also on clay, in last year’s French Open final, where the Spaniard was triumphant 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.

Rafael Nadal Form 


There was a time when Rafael Nadal would be expected to win every clay-court event he entered up to and including the French Open. This was because in 2005, his breakthrough year, an 18-year old Rafa won Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome before winning his first title at Roland Garros. He would repeat the remarkable feat of winning four titles during the European clay-court swing a further eight times, most recently in 2018. 

However, in 2019 Rafa won just one – the Italian Open – before taking another French Open title. Last year, Nadal didn’t win any warm up events prior to entering the rescheduled French Open played in October, yet still won, not dropping a set. So while Nadal would always prefer to have at least one clay-court title under his belt before hitting the Philippe Chatrier court at Roland Garros, he’s proved he can still win without it. 

Of course, 34-year old Nadal already won a 12th Barcelona Open two weeks ago, so he is in the running for a second clay court title today. This week he has lost just one set, to Denis Shapovalov in the match of the tournament, with Rafa saving two match-points before coming through 3-6, 6-4, 7-6. In the previous round, Nadal had negotiated the potential banana-skin of world no.18 Jannik Sinner with comparative ease 7-5, 6-4. In the quarterfinals he avenged last week’s defeat in Madrid by beating Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4, and in the semis he ended the run of 6’11” service machine Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4. 

Novak Djokovic Form


Had it not been for Rafael Nadal’s mastery of clay, Novak Djokovic would be regarded as the best clay-courter of his era. While the Serb has won 15 titles on clay, Nadal has personally knocked Djokovic out of a further 18 clay-court tournaments, all but one in the semis and finals. Still, his lone 2016 French Open makes him one of only 4 players two win the “Career Slam” of all four majors, along with Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Nadal (Rod Laver of course remains the only man to win the actual Grand Slam of all four majors within a calendar year in the open era.) 

Djokovic is also one of only two players to defeat Nadal at his beloved Roland Garros, doing so in 2015 (the other being Robin Soderling in 2009.) After a poor start to the European clay-swing, falling short in Monte Carlo and Belgrade, Djokovic has found his form this week in Rome. Straight-sets wins over Taylor Fritz and Alejandro Davidovich were followed by his epic three-set victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas that, due to an extended rain delay, began on Friday but finished on Saturday, the top seed winning 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. 

Later the same day, Djokovic played his semifinal against local hope Lorenzo Sonego. The unheralded Sonego had achieved what the likes of Italy’s Big Three of Berrettini, Fognini and Sinner had failed to do, knocking out three seeds in Gael Monfils, Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev to reach the semis. Sonego had even beaten Djokovic in their only previous meeting 6-2, 6-1. The world no.33 put up a tremendous fight before Djokovic prevailed 6-3, 6-7, 6-2. 

Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic FAQ

When is the Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic match taking place?

Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic takes place at 03:00AM (AEDT) on Sunday, May 16

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Verdict

Defeating Rafael Nadal on clay would have already been a huge task for Novak Djokovic had he not played the best part of two matches on Saturday. At the start of the third set of his match with Lorenzo Sonego, the 33-year old world no.1 looked visibly drained, before finding his second wind and pulling out a 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 win.
 
Nadal played just once, winning his semifinal against the giant American Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4. The only concern in that match might have been the potential wrist injury Rafa could sustain in returning Opelka’s 140+mph serves.
I’m backing Nadal to be just too fresh and too good on this surface for a jaded Djokovic, who will probably feign injury and throw in a barrage of drop-shots but to no avail; Nadal wins this match in straight sets, and with it “la decimal” of titles in Rome.
Best Bet: Nadal Winner @-227.27 at BetMGM - 1 Unit
Best Bet: Nadal 2-0 Set Betting @120.00 at Caesars (Sport) - 1 Unit
Value Bet: Nadal Most Aces @650.00 at PlaySugarhouse Sport - 1 Unit

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Rafael Nadal v Novak Djokovic