Rafael Nadal: World No 1 hails French Open boost of Italian Open win | Tennis | Sport
That’s after the Spaniard lost in the last eight to Dominic Thiem at his previous event, the Madrid Open, the week before.
But Nadal bounced back in style in Rome, seeing off challenges from Fabio Fognini and Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals and semi-finals before a dramatic final showdown with Alexander Zverev.
Despite claiming the first set 6-1, Nadal faded in the second set and he became visibly frustrated with the German going close to becoming the first player since Roger Federer in 2011 to bagel the Spaniard.
But inclement weather forced a break in play, allowing Nadal to regain his focus at a time when Zverev had all the momentum at Foro Italico.
And Nadal came out guns blazing in the deciding set to claim an eighth Italian Open success and return to No 1 in the world, once again surpassing Federer.
With Roland Garros – where Nadal is widely expected to add an 11th career title – starting on Sunday, Nadal hailed his campaign on the clay courts of the Italian capital a perfect warm-up.
“It’s been an amazing week,” he told ATP World Tour. “So important for me, this week after last week in Madrid.
“It was tough losing in the quarter-finals. To have this trophy with me again was unforgettable. It was an emotional final, a tough one.
“The rain delay, what happened I didn’t think it was going to help me but of course later [in the match] it was helping.
“I came back [in the third set] with a clear idea so I’m very happy.
“It’s difficult to describe. It’s amazing. It’s a difficult event of course.
“To have the chance to win again here means a lot to me.
“Many thanks to everyone here that made possible the event, the crowd, everyone.”
Nadal is looking to defend his French Open title having claimed 10 of the last 13 available crowns in Paris.