Rafael Nadal recalls Novak Djokovic loss: ‘I needed extra energy to stay in touch’

As was expected, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were the players to beat in Rome 2014. Two great rivals passed all the obstacles to set the title clash. Novak went all the way and beat Rafa 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours and 19 minutes for his third Rome title and a massive boost ahead of Roland Garros. Rome was Novak’s 19th Masters 1000 title, moving two behind Roger Federer and reducing the gap to Nadal. It was their 41st meeting and the 19th triumph for the Serb, the 15th in the last 23 clashes and the fourth in a row. Djokovic moved 12-9 in front in the ATP finals and 7-5 in the Masters 1000 title clashes. Novak defeated Rafa for the fourth time in 17 matches on clay and came from a set down to oust the Spaniard for the fourth time. Djokovic won 19 points more and had the upper hand in sets two and three after firing 45 winners and 30 unforced errors.

Nadal grabbed four return games, which was not enough to keep him safe. Novak took almost half of the return points and turned them into six breaks from 14 opportunities. Djokovic left Nadal far behind in the shortest rallies up to four strokes and bested him in the more advanced ones to earn the trophy. Despite not playing at his best, Rafa gave his 120% to stay in touch and challenge world no. 2. The Spaniard pulled the break back in the middle of the decider before the Serb shifted into a higher gear and brought the victory home. Nadal said he needed the extra energy in the closing stages to stay in touch with Djokovic, which his legs were unable to allow him. 

Novak Djokovic overpowered Rafael Nadal in the 2014 Rome final.

“It’s tough for everyone to beat Novak, not only me. He is one of the world’s best players, and losing against him is normal. I played well at some points and had my chances. I needed the extra energy to stay in touch with him for another ball or two in the crucial moments, but my legs could not endure that after a tough week. Novak had an early advantage in the rallies, and it was tough for me to prepare for the shot and change the dynamic of the point. I could do better, but I’m still pleased with my performance. I played a final this week and took 600 points; it’s a good result.

I defeated formidable rivals like Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov and stayed in touch with Novak. I feel better about my Roland Garros chances than a week ago. I played well to forge a 4-1 lead in the opener, and then he started playing great. I needed more fuel at 3-3 in the decider to resist Novak, the better first groundstroke and the right intensity. Novak’s return worked like a charm and pushed me away from my comfort zone. I have lost to Novak four times in a row, and I must work hard to prepare for our next clash,” Rafael Nadal said.