Italian Open title sets up Nadal for Roland-Garros
Rafael Nadal is right back where he wants to be heading into the French Open.
Alex Zverev is in a good place entering Roland Garros, too.
Nadal came out on top in a match-up of this year's top two clay-court players yesterday, beating defending champion Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 to win a record-extending eighth Italian Open title.
Coming a week after a loss in the Madrid Open quarter-finals to Dominic Thiem, Nadal has his confidence back entering the year's second Grand Slam in Paris, which starts next Sunday.
"It's been an amazing week," Nadal said. "It was tough losing in Madrid, so to come back and win the trophy here is great."
Nadal recovered from an early break in the third set after a 50-minute rain delay, winning four straight games to close it out once the players returned to the court.
"He came out way faster and played much more aggressive than I did," Zverev said. "It just changed momentum ... . If you don't have the momentum on your side, you're not going to beat Rafa."
Still, Zverev was pleased that he dominated Nadal in the second set and was up a break in the third before the rain came.
"I was not far away from beating Rafa on a clay court in a Masters final, so I guess I can take that to Paris," Zverev said.
Nadal, who improved to 5-0 in his career against Zverev, has won a record 10 French Opens.
"Of course, Rafa will be the favourite there," said Zverev, who has never been past the fourth round in a major. "I'll be in the other half of the draw, and that's a good thing."
Nadal will reclaim the number one ranking today from Roger Federer, who is sitting out the clay season to prepare for Wimbledon.