Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have a chance to claim the bragging rights on Sunday in the Italian Open final. They each own 33 Masters 1000 titles and the stakes might get any bigger with the French Open looming on the horizon. On the women’s side, Johanna Konta will contest a first ever Premier 5 event final on clay when she plays big serving Czech Karolina Pliskova.
Djokovic-Nadal Renew Episode No.54 Of Their Historic Rivalry, But is This The Biggest Of The Lot?
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will each have destiny in their own hands in the final of the Italian Open. Both co-own the record of the most Masters 1000 title, but only one will be the supreme leader of that level at the conclusion of the Internazionali BNL d’italia.
Perhaps more significantly, this could be Novak Djokovic’s moment to land the telling blow on the vulnerable Spaniard and head to Roland Garros as the odds-on favorite to claim his second Coupe Des Mousquetaires. His brutal straight sets victory over the Spaniard in Melbourne left a huge scar in Nadal’s game and if that was a boxing contest, Djokovic’s knuckles would have been bruised and Nadal would have been beaten to a pulp.
This will be a first meeting since Australian Open. Djokovic has played himself into some form during the European clay-court swing following subpar displays in Indian Wells and Miami. His path to the final in Rome has been more difficult than Nadal. He snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Del Potro in the last eight where he saved two match-points, and then knocked out dimunitive Argentine Diego Schwartzman in another grueling three setter.
For the Spaniard, this is undoubtedly his best run in any tournament since reaching the finals down under in January. He has dropped just 13 games (won three sets 6-0) and spent almost two hours less on court than Djokovic.
The World No.1 owns Nadal 28-25 in their historic rivalry, and Djokovic has never been in a better spot to thwart his great rival’s hopes at Roland Garros. The last time Nadal failed to win any of the Masters 1000 titles on clay, he also failed to win the French Open (lost to Djokovic at 2015 French Open). Despite having one eye at history in Paris, Djokovic will be firmly focused on landing the knock-out punch.
Djokovic v Nadal Prediction
Nadal to win in three sets: 3/1 (bet365)
Can Konta Cap A Fine Week In Rome With A First Title On Clay?
Prior to this season, Johanna Konta had never advanced past the quarterfinals at any tour-level event on clay. However that has all changed this month. The Brit reached the final in Rabat a fortnight ago but suffered a demoralizing defeat to Maria Sakkari after being 6-2 4-2. She will have the chance to make amends for that amiss when she contests her second final on clay and her first of a Premier 5 event on clay.
Konta knocked out Madrid Open champion Kiki Bertens in three sets in the semifinals in a match that lasted 2 hours and 47 minutes. Can she overcome the odds and become the first British woman to triumph at the Italian capital in nearly 40 years?
Karolina Pliskova will stand between Konta and the Rome title. The fourth seed will play in her first final in the Internazionali BNL D’italia after denying Maria Sakkari’s rematch against Konta in the semifinal.
The Czech owns Konta on head-to-head after winning five of their six meetings. Pliskova could win her joint-biggest title of her career (won Premier 5 event in Cincinnati in 2016). Her win in Cincinnati in 2016 propelled her to make the finals of US Open that same year. Could history repeat itself?
While Pliskova is not the most naturally gifted player on the surface, she has recorded some decent results on the dirt. She is a former French Open semifinalist and has won two titles on clay in her career. She has been one of the most consistent players on tour during the hard court season in the first quarter of 2019. Her start to the clay swing was blighted by illness and she could not practice at 100% until Rome.
Konta may utilise similar tactics she used against Bertens given that Pliskova plays in the same mold. But I fancy the Czech to end Konta’s fairy-tale run here. The Brit played a punishing three-setter against World No.4 yesterday and Pliskova is a better server. Expect the Czech to continue her dominance.
Konta v Pliskova Prediction
Pliskova to win in straight sets: 29/20 (888Sport)