Rafael Nadal has absolutely blown away everyone unfortunate enough to meet him on clay this season.
However, with Novak Djokovic awaiting in the semi-final of the Italian Open in Rome, Nadal was in for one of the toughest tests of the year in what was expected to be a titanic battle.
The two greats traded blows from the baseline but in the end it was Nadal who came out on top, earning a hard-fought 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 to advance to a staggering tenth final in Rome.
Djokovic, who poured everything into a mammoth first set was brilliant at times - but Nadal is simply unstoppable on clay this year and he proved why, clicking through the gears to overpower Djokovic and claim his spot in the final.
“To play against Novak is always a challenge and I hit a couple of bad shots when serving for the set, but he played a good game. It’s always the same against him, when your level goes down he’s always there and you’re in big trouble,” said Nadal in the aftermath of his triumph.
One rally in particular during the ding-dong battle encapsulated exactly why it is so hard to beat Nadal on clay.
Djokovic had Nadal scrambling all over court and looked to have the point well and truly under control but the Spaniard simply would not give it up, rescuing the point on more than one occasion.
Eventually, Djokovic managed to claim the point, but only after some spectacular recovery play from Nadal.
Magnificent. Any other player and that rally is over ages ago.
Nadal is set to face either Marin Cilic or Alexander Zverev in the final but you can’t help but feel that whoever he faces is set for disappointment.
The belligerent Spaniard has marched to title after title and is the odds-on favourite to claim an unprecedented 11th French Open crown when he takes to the famous Roland Garros courts.
If we are honest, we can’t see how anyone could prevent that from happening.
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