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Men’s final: As it happened

This content was published 11 years ago. It may refer to a past edition of the Internazionali d’Italia.

9.33 pm: What a final game. Novak raced into a 0-40 lead, Rafa came back to deuce, saving three match points (Nole wided a backhand then Rafa went ace, service winner). Nole carved out another match point then on second service, we had the point to end all points with two let cords and Nole firing one into Rafa’s feet right on the line that the champ couldn’t dig out. What an end to a great match and a great tournament.

9.29 pm: NOVAK DJOKOVIC WINS 6-4, 6-4!

9.20 pm: 5-4, Nole to break for the match, before the heavens open… (it’s spotting). He’s been netting fat too many of late, the Djoker – his net clearance was 40 cm lower than Rafa’s in the first set (56 cm compared with 96 cm) – this set it’s been -10 cm as often as not, but he’s still got his nose in front. What can he do now? If he breaks now, there’s no time for Rafa to do his “immediate break back so sucks boo to you!” routine…

9.08 pm:  4-3 Nole and he trots to the net after holding in the… what is it? Come on, let’s hear it… crucialissimo seventh game of the set (players who win the seventh game go on to win the set in 90% of cases).

9 pm:  3-3. These two are like prize fighters in the 11th round of a bout. Still trading big punches, both too strong to be KOd but not far from being out on their feet, on the ropes…

8.46 pm:  And unlike the first set, we don’t have three breaks in a row. Nole was 15-40 to the good but netted twice, and Rafa bounced back to hold, 2-2. And he’s got that game face on, that Iberian stare. Gathering his brows like a gathering storm…

8.36 pm:  And just like in the first set, Rafa breaks riiiiight back at ya. 2-1 Djoker, Rafa to serve, as night falls over Rome.

8.31 pm:  After a game for the ages, deuces wild, during which Rafa sips and ends up all clay-covered, Nole carves out a break point then pushes Rafa into an error. 2-0. The Djoker is four games away. Four holds. That’s all. Amazing.

8.12 pm:  Seven holds then three breaks! 30-40, Nole steps round and inside-outs a forehand down the line to take the set! Oh wow! Little to choose between them in terms of the stats in what was (yet another) thrilling set but Nole hit four more winners and had a stronger second service percentage.

8.05 pm:  After seven games of the highest quality tennis imaginable, these guys suddenly demonstrate that they are human. Nole unforces a few and after saving the first break point, is powerless against the second (though he doesn’t go down without a fight). 5-4 Djoker but back on service.

7.59 pm:  Ay caramba! Three of the ugliest unforced errors you will ever see from Nadal hand Djoker the break! All of a sudden he’s serving for the set!

7.51 pm:  4-3 to Djokovic who has just hit the most incredible forehand from out wide and behind the baseline which landed barely two feet the other side of the net. It dipped like a spitball, for any fans of 1950s baseball out there.

7.42 pm:  3-2 to Djokovic though Rafa has looked the more dangerous thus far. The crowd is slightly more behind Nole, I’d say though.

7.30 pm:  More confident holds on either side and it’s 2-1.

7.18 pm:  Big serves, big groundstrokes. Nole holds to 15 to open.

7.03 pm:  Here come the players, out onto Centre Court!

5 pm:  Good morning, afternoon, evening everyone, depending where you are in the world, and welcome to the 2011 Internazionali BNL d’Italia men’s final! With rain delaying the women’s final, this match is getting under way a lot later than anticipated, but it’s very much worth the wait.

Can Djokovic maintain his unbeaten start to the season that has seen him beat Rafa in the last three ATP Masters 1000 finals? Will his late finish to an epic three-set semi-final against Murray last night have taken too much out of him? Will Rafa re-establish himself as the king of clay? Tweet me what you think @DrewLilley as always (and you can carry on doing so after the tournament has finished!)

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