Nadal wins third straight Rome Masters

A day after establishing a record for most wins on one surface, Rafael Nadal became the only player to win the Rome Masters three consecutive times.

updated: May 15, 2007 15:02 IST
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A day after establishing a record for most wins on one surface, Rafael Nadal became the only player to win the Rome Masters three consecutive times.

It was a week filled with emotions for the second-ranked Spaniard, who beat Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-2, 6-2 on Sunday.

"I think I'm in the best moment of my career, playing better than ever, so (I'm) very happy for that," the second-ranked Nadal said.

It was Nadal's fourth ATP title of the year. He also won in Indian Wells, California; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Barcelona, Spain. He has a 21-3 career record in finals.

But before reaching the Rome final, the 20-year-old Nadal had to overcome a dizzy spell and an apparent stomach problem that forced him to go the hospital. He also spent nearly four hours on the court against Nikolay Davydenko in the semifinals.

Nadal has not lost on clay since he was defeated by Igor Andreev in the quarterfinals in Valencia, Spain, in April 2005.

Record streak

Sunday's victory extended Nadal's winning streak on clay to 77 matches. By reaching the final, the Spaniard had already broken John McEnroe's record for most victories on one surface.

"This guy is unbelievable on this surface," McEnroe said of Nadal shortly before the final. "He's like the (Bjorn) Borg of this era."

Going into Sunday's final, the sixth-ranked Gonzalez held a 3-1 edge in career meetings with Nadal, including a win in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January.

But Nadal took control of the match with a break in the opening game and never relinquished his grip. Down one set and two breaks, Gonzalez managed to get one break back, but Nadal kept the lead and finished off with a forehand winner.

"To win here for a third time is like a dream," Nadal said. "I've had the good fortune of coming here for three years and winning for three years ... It's an incredible sensation."

By the end of the match, Gonzalez had 31 unforced errors - including 18 with what is usually is more effective shot, a powerful forehand. Nadal, who combined his solid ground strokes with uncharacteristic approaches to the net, had 14.

"When you go to the court in a final you don't think about a win 6-2, 6-2," Nadal said. "If Gonzalez takes control of a lot of points it's very difficult ... so I try to return the ball and be more aggressive.

"Fernando made way more errors than usual and I took advantage of it," Nadal added.

Gonzalez said he knew the reason for the loss.

"I think the reason was him," the 26-year-old Chilean said. "I tried to attack him all the time, tried to play very close to the baseline, tried to make my own opportunities and go to the net. But I couldn't do it.

"Sometimes he makes you play where you don't want to play," Gonzalez added. "It's tough because he's in good shape and he can be hours playing there."

Rome is a key clay-court warmup for the French Open, which begins May 27. Thomas Muster and Jaroslav Drobny - a Czech player in the 1950s - also won in Rome three times, but not in succession.