Rafael Nadal took full advantage of a weather delay to beat defending champion Alexander Zverev in a rollercoaster final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
Nadal was a break down in the decider when rain forced a second stoppage of the match, with Zverev having won nine of the previous 12 games.
And, when play resumed after a delay of 50 minutes, Nadal immediately broke back and won four games in succession to seal a 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 victory.
A 32nd Masters 1000 title and an eighth in Rome will take Nadal back to world number one on Monday, the 31-year-old having relinquished top spot with a quarter-final defeat to Dominic Thiem in Madrid last week.
Zverev went on to win in Madrid for back-to-back titles after victory in Munich and looked set to make it a hat-trick after recovering from losing six games in succession in the opening set.
The 21-year-old, who had lost all four of his previous meetings with Nadal, raced into a 5-0 lead in the second set and Nadal breathed a sigh of relief after getting a game on the board to avoid a first bagel on clay since 2007.
After serving out for the set, Zverev broke in the opening game of the decider and was ahead 3-2 when a lengthy stoppage for rain – the first had lasted only a few minutes – ultimately swung the momentum of the contest firmly in Nadal’s favour.
Nadal was full of praise for his opponent at the presentation ceremony broadcast on Sky Sports: “Today the trophy is with me for just a few points,” he said.
“It was a very difficult match and I wish you all the best for the next couple of years.”
Zverev responded by saying: “I want to congratulate Rafa, you’re an amazing champion and you proved it again tonight.
"You’re the greatest clay-court player of all time and I think everybody saw that today.
“(Talking to his team court-side) We had an unbelievable winning streak, the title in Madrid last week was amazing, getting to the final here…
"I know it’s very disappointing to get so close and lose in the end, but we lost to Rafa, so I guess that’s somewhat okay.”
In Lyon, Radu Albot progressed to the second round of the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon with a 6-7 (7/9), 7-5, 6-4 victory over Federico Delbonis.
Seventh seed Andreas Seppi claimed a 7-5, 6-4 win over fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato at the Geneva Open, but Germany’s Mischa Zverev – seeded eighth – was beaten 7-5, 3-6, 4-6 by Bosnian Mirza Basic.
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