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Rafael Nadal regained his No.2 ranking by winning the Internazionali BNL d’Italia for a sixth time but on this evidence he proved he was the best player in the world right now. The Spaniard triumphed 7-5, 6-3 against Novak Djokovic in a match lasting two hours and 20 minutes to gain revenge for the Serb’s victory 12 months ago.
It capped a fine week for the Majorcan who followed up victories in Monte Carlo and Barcelona to make it three tournament triumphs out of four, as the final match finally got underway at midday on Monday after being delayed by the rain. The world’s elite will be very fearful at the French Open as Nadal was not happy with his performance and can take his game to another level.
“I didn’t consider myself that good,” said the new champion at Foro Italico. “I can do better. When you are not serving 100% perfect then you are in trouble because he returns hard. I am trying to play more aggressive and I am touching the ball better and my forehand is more painful than last year and that is why I am able to go more to the side.
“The clay court season was better for me apart from the mistake of Madrid. I am playing well and at the right level in my opinion. You cannot expect to be perfect and your opponent is not going to be perfect all the time. When you are losing finals like I did last year and one this year you have to control of your emotions when you lose and win.”
Nadal will leapfrog Roger Federer in the rankings, who Djokovic beat on Saturday, but the left hander claims which position he is in does not worry him.
“After eight years being top two in the rankings making no big difference,” said Nadal. “It is normal to change the ranking in the next month after Roland Garros or Wimbledon and I’m a few points from Roger but I am in the race and I am in the right position and few points away from the number one and this is the most important thing and I am happy. I think this win is important psychologically.”
Even current World No.1 Djokovic admitted later that Nadal is a better player than he is on this surface although he rued the opportunities he missed in a match where he failed to produce anywhere near his best tennis of 2012 as he looks to complete the Nole Slam at Roland Garros.
“He is always the favourite even if I win against him seven times – he is the best player in the world on this surface,” said Djokovic. “I think that the match today was quite clos, even if he won in straight sets. If you don’t use the opportunities against Rafa he gets momentum. I made unforced errors and I don’t think he played extremely well. I will go to Paris with confidence and I played a great week.
“I feel good on the court and I need to make a few adjustment before Paris but I’ll be in top form.”