Tennis star Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal pulled out of the London Olympics on Thursday due to injury.

Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in straight sets in their 51st meeting to reach the Rome Masters final (AFP Photo/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE)
Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in straight sets in their 51st meeting to reach the Rome Masters final
Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in straight sets in their 51st meeting to reach the Rome Masters final (AFP Photo/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE)
Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their semifinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onrati/ANSA via AP)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their semifinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onrati/ANSA via AP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal, left, hugs Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the end of their semifinal match, at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. Rafael Nadal was challenged in the first set by Novak Djokovic before pulling away for a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win to reach the Italian Open final on Saturday. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Spain's Rafael Nadal, left, hugs Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the end of their semifinal match, at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. Rafael Nadal was challenged in the first set by Novak Djokovic before pulling away for a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win to reach the Italian Open final on Saturday. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina returns the ball Estonia's Anett Kontaveit during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina returns the ball Estonia's Anett Kontaveit during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina returns the ball to Estonia's Anett Kontaveit during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina returns the ball to Estonia's Anett Kontaveit during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Spain's Rafael Nadal during their semifinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onrati/ANSA via AP)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Spain's Rafael Nadal during their semifinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onrati/ANSA via AP)
Romania's Simona Halep celebrates after beating Russia's Maria Sharapova in their semifinal match, at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. Halep won 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Romania's Simona Halep celebrates after beating Russia's Maria Sharapova in their semifinal match, at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. Halep won 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Germany's Alexander Zverev reacts after winning a point to Croatia's Marin Cilic during their semifinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Germany's Alexander Zverev reacts after winning a point to Croatia's Marin Cilic during their semifinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Estonia's Anett Kontaveit returns the ball to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Estonia's Anett Kontaveit returns the ball to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina celebrates after defeating Estonia's Anett Kontaveit during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina celebrates after defeating Estonia's Anett Kontaveit during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his semifinal match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. Rafael Nadal was challenged in the first set by Novak Djokovic before pulling away for a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win to reach the Italian Open final on Saturday. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his semifinal match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. Rafael Nadal was challenged in the first set by Novak Djokovic before pulling away for a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win to reach the Italian Open final on Saturday. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their semifinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onrati/ANSA via AP)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their semifinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onrati/ANSA via AP)
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina celebrates after defeating Estonia's Anett Kontaveit during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina celebrates after defeating Estonia's Anett Kontaveit during their women's singles semifinal, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Russia's Maria Sharapova returns the ball during her semi final match against Romania's Simona Halep, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Russia's Maria Sharapova returns the ball during her semi final match against Romania's Simona Halep, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal prepares to serve the ball, during his semifinal match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. Rafael Nadal was challenged in the first set by Novak Djokovic before pulling away for a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win to reach the Italian Open final on Saturday. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Nadal beats Djokovic and will face Zverev for Rome title
Spain's Rafael Nadal prepares to serve the ball, during his semifinal match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 19, 2018. Rafael Nadal was challenged in the first set by Novak Djokovic before pulling away for a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win to reach the Italian Open final on Saturday. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
A view of the Foro Italico's central court as Italy's Fabio Fognini plays Spain's Rafa Nadal during their quarterfinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Super idea: tennis channel pushing Italian Open development
A view of the Foro Italico's central court as Italy's Fabio Fognini plays Spain's Rafa Nadal during their quarterfinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2018. (Claudio Onorati/ANSA via AP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Italy's Fabio Fognini during a quarter final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2018. Nadal won 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Super idea: tennis channel pushing Italian Open development
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Italy's Fabio Fognini during a quarter final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2018. Nadal won 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Tony Gentile
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal hugs Serbia's Novak Djokovic after winning their semi final match REUTERS/Tony Gentile
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal hugs Serbia's Novak Djokovic after winning their semi final match REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Tony Gentile
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Tony Gentile
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open
Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 19, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Rampant Rafa Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final
Rampant Rafa Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final
Rampant Rafa Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final
Rampant Rafa Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final
Rampant Rafa Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final
Rampant Rafa Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final
Rampant Rafa Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final
Rampant Rafa Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final
Rampant Rafa Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to reach Italian Open final
With fears growing that this year's French Open could turn into a procession, Novak Djokovic issued a warning on Saturday that Rafael Nadal may not have things all his own way in Paris. Djokovic was ultimately outlasted in a pulsating Italian Open semi-final 7-6, 6-3, but after two years of struggle - and more than 12 months since he had faced a member of the "Big Four" - he at last looked like rediscovering his best form in what was a 51st meeting against his old rival Nadal. During a bruising first set that lasted 73 minutes Djokovic fired winners off both wings that drew gasps from the Foro Italico crowd as even Nadal was made to look pedestrian at times by his opponent's swiftness around the court. The problem for Djokovic was that his high level irritated a snarling Nadal into playing arguably his best tennis of 2018. After weeks of straightforward victories, the raucous Roman crowd was thrilled by Nadal being forced to produce the sort of ruthless big-hitting that makes him almost unbeatable on this surface. After losing the first set on a tie-break, Djokovic faded in the second as Nadal advanced to Sunday's final against German rising star Alexander Zverev. A win for Nadal would see him reclaim the world No 1 ranking from the absent Roger Federer. Djokovic produced a brilliant performance in the first set Credit: Getty Images Djokovic for his part will drop out of the world's top 20 for the first time since 2006 on Monday, but he will surely clamber back up the rankings ladder with more displays like this. “I can only take positives from this week," said Djokovic, who was playing his first semi-final since June. "I didn't really expect anything coming into this tournament, when it comes to results, because I didn't have many great results in the last period. I'm pleased with how I've played [in the] past three days, very pleased. “I don't think that there was too much of a difference [between us], which is great news for me. Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay-courts and he's in great, great form. It's very difficult to play him on clay anywhere. “I've never faced this kind of situation before. So I thought that it's not going to take me long to get back to winning ways…I [have] had to learn a lesson and accept the circumstances. But, looking back two or three months, this is the best that I've felt on the court, by far." Nadal is a win away from reclaiming the world No 1 spot Credit: AFP Nadal was pleased with his performance, and said the win would give him "good confidence". Elsewhere at the Foro Italico on Saturday, Jamie Murray and partner Bruno Soares lost their men's doubles semi-final 7-6, 3-6, 10-8 to the Colombian pair Juan Sebastian Farah and Robert Farah. Despite the disappointment, it was a positive week for Murray and Soares, who won consecutive matches for the first time since early March. Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's impressive run ended in the semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat to world No 1 Simona Halep.
Novak Djokovic produces best performance of the year but is outlasted by Rafael Nadal in Rome
With fears growing that this year's French Open could turn into a procession, Novak Djokovic issued a warning on Saturday that Rafael Nadal may not have things all his own way in Paris. Djokovic was ultimately outlasted in a pulsating Italian Open semi-final 7-6, 6-3, but after two years of struggle - and more than 12 months since he had faced a member of the "Big Four" - he at last looked like rediscovering his best form in what was a 51st meeting against his old rival Nadal. During a bruising first set that lasted 73 minutes Djokovic fired winners off both wings that drew gasps from the Foro Italico crowd as even Nadal was made to look pedestrian at times by his opponent's swiftness around the court. The problem for Djokovic was that his high level irritated a snarling Nadal into playing arguably his best tennis of 2018. After weeks of straightforward victories, the raucous Roman crowd was thrilled by Nadal being forced to produce the sort of ruthless big-hitting that makes him almost unbeatable on this surface. After losing the first set on a tie-break, Djokovic faded in the second as Nadal advanced to Sunday's final against German rising star Alexander Zverev. A win for Nadal would see him reclaim the world No 1 ranking from the absent Roger Federer. Djokovic produced a brilliant performance in the first set Credit: Getty Images Djokovic for his part will drop out of the world's top 20 for the first time since 2006 on Monday, but he will surely clamber back up the rankings ladder with more displays like this. “I can only take positives from this week," said Djokovic, who was playing his first semi-final since June. "I didn't really expect anything coming into this tournament, when it comes to results, because I didn't have many great results in the last period. I'm pleased with how I've played [in the] past three days, very pleased. “I don't think that there was too much of a difference [between us], which is great news for me. Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay-courts and he's in great, great form. It's very difficult to play him on clay anywhere. “I've never faced this kind of situation before. So I thought that it's not going to take me long to get back to winning ways…I [have] had to learn a lesson and accept the circumstances. But, looking back two or three months, this is the best that I've felt on the court, by far." Nadal is a win away from reclaiming the world No 1 spot Credit: AFP Nadal was pleased with his performance, and said the win would give him "good confidence". Elsewhere at the Foro Italico on Saturday, Jamie Murray and partner Bruno Soares lost their men's doubles semi-final 7-6, 3-6, 10-8 to the Colombian pair Juan Sebastian Farah and Robert Farah. Despite the disappointment, it was a positive week for Murray and Soares, who won consecutive matches for the first time since early March. Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's impressive run ended in the semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat to world No 1 Simona Halep.
With fears growing that this year's French Open could turn into a procession, Novak Djokovic issued a warning on Saturday that Rafael Nadal may not have things all his own way in Paris. Djokovic was ultimately outlasted in a pulsating Italian Open semi-final 7-6, 6-3, but after two years of struggle - and more than 12 months since he had faced a member of the "Big Four" - he at last looked like rediscovering his best form in what was a 51st meeting against his old rival Nadal. During a bruising first set that lasted 73 minutes Djokovic fired winners off both wings that drew gasps from the Foro Italico crowd as even Nadal was made to look pedestrian at times by his opponent's swiftness around the court. The problem for Djokovic was that his high level irritated a snarling Nadal into playing arguably his best tennis of 2018. After weeks of straightforward victories, the raucous Roman crowd was thrilled by Nadal being forced to produce the sort of ruthless big-hitting that makes him almost unbeatable on this surface. After losing the first set on a tie-break, Djokovic faded in the second as Nadal advanced to Sunday's final against German rising star Alexander Zverev. A win for Nadal would see him reclaim the world No 1 ranking from the absent Roger Federer. Djokovic produced a brilliant performance in the first set Credit: Getty Images Djokovic for his part will drop out of the world's top 20 for the first time since 2006 on Monday, but he will surely clamber back up the rankings ladder with more displays like this. “I can only take positives from this week," said Djokovic, who was playing his first semi-final since June. "I didn't really expect anything coming into this tournament, when it comes to results, because I didn't have many great results in the last period. I'm pleased with how I've played [in the] past three days, very pleased. “I don't think that there was too much of a difference [between us], which is great news for me. Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay-courts and he's in great, great form. It's very difficult to play him on clay anywhere. “I've never faced this kind of situation before. So I thought that it's not going to take me long to get back to winning ways…I [have] had to learn a lesson and accept the circumstances. But, looking back two or three months, this is the best that I've felt on the court, by far." Nadal is a win away from reclaiming the world No 1 spot Credit: AFP Nadal was pleased with his performance, and said the win would give him "good confidence". Elsewhere at the Foro Italico on Saturday, Jamie Murray and partner Bruno Soares lost their men's doubles semi-final 7-6, 3-6, 10-8 to the Colombian pair Juan Sebastian Farah and Robert Farah. Despite the disappointment, it was a positive week for Murray and Soares, who won consecutive matches for the first time since early March. Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's impressive run ended in the semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat to world No 1 Simona Halep.
Novak Djokovic produces best performance of the year but is outlasted by Rafael Nadal in Rome
With fears growing that this year's French Open could turn into a procession, Novak Djokovic issued a warning on Saturday that Rafael Nadal may not have things all his own way in Paris. Djokovic was ultimately outlasted in a pulsating Italian Open semi-final 7-6, 6-3, but after two years of struggle - and more than 12 months since he had faced a member of the "Big Four" - he at last looked like rediscovering his best form in what was a 51st meeting against his old rival Nadal. During a bruising first set that lasted 73 minutes Djokovic fired winners off both wings that drew gasps from the Foro Italico crowd as even Nadal was made to look pedestrian at times by his opponent's swiftness around the court. The problem for Djokovic was that his high level irritated a snarling Nadal into playing arguably his best tennis of 2018. After weeks of straightforward victories, the raucous Roman crowd was thrilled by Nadal being forced to produce the sort of ruthless big-hitting that makes him almost unbeatable on this surface. After losing the first set on a tie-break, Djokovic faded in the second as Nadal advanced to Sunday's final against German rising star Alexander Zverev. A win for Nadal would see him reclaim the world No 1 ranking from the absent Roger Federer. Djokovic produced a brilliant performance in the first set Credit: Getty Images Djokovic for his part will drop out of the world's top 20 for the first time since 2006 on Monday, but he will surely clamber back up the rankings ladder with more displays like this. “I can only take positives from this week," said Djokovic, who was playing his first semi-final since June. "I didn't really expect anything coming into this tournament, when it comes to results, because I didn't have many great results in the last period. I'm pleased with how I've played [in the] past three days, very pleased. “I don't think that there was too much of a difference [between us], which is great news for me. Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay-courts and he's in great, great form. It's very difficult to play him on clay anywhere. “I've never faced this kind of situation before. So I thought that it's not going to take me long to get back to winning ways…I [have] had to learn a lesson and accept the circumstances. But, looking back two or three months, this is the best that I've felt on the court, by far." Nadal is a win away from reclaiming the world No 1 spot Credit: AFP Nadal was pleased with his performance, and said the win would give him "good confidence". Elsewhere at the Foro Italico on Saturday, Jamie Murray and partner Bruno Soares lost their men's doubles semi-final 7-6, 3-6, 10-8 to the Colombian pair Juan Sebastian Farah and Robert Farah. Despite the disappointment, it was a positive week for Murray and Soares, who won consecutive matches for the first time since early March. Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's impressive run ended in the semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat to world No 1 Simona Halep.
With fears growing that this year's French Open could turn into a procession, Novak Djokovic issued a warning on Saturday that Rafael Nadal may not have things all his own way in Paris. Djokovic was ultimately outlasted in a pulsating Italian Open semi-final 7-6, 6-3, but after two years of struggle - and more than 12 months since he had faced a member of the "Big Four" - he at last looked like rediscovering his best form in what was a 51st meeting against his old rival Nadal. During a bruising first set that lasted 73 minutes Djokovic fired winners off both wings that drew gasps from the Foro Italico crowd as even Nadal was made to look pedestrian at times by his opponent's swiftness around the court. The problem for Djokovic was that his high level irritated a snarling Nadal into playing arguably his best tennis of 2018. After weeks of straightforward victories, the raucous Roman crowd was thrilled by Nadal being forced to produce the sort of ruthless big-hitting that makes him almost unbeatable on this surface. After losing the first set on a tie-break, Djokovic faded in the second as Nadal advanced to Sunday's final against German rising star Alexander Zverev. A win for Nadal would see him reclaim the world No 1 ranking from the absent Roger Federer. Djokovic produced a brilliant performance in the first set Credit: Getty Images Djokovic for his part will drop out of the world's top 20 for the first time since 2006 on Monday, but he will surely clamber back up the rankings ladder with more displays like this. “I can only take positives from this week," said Djokovic, who was playing his first semi-final since June. "I didn't really expect anything coming into this tournament, when it comes to results, because I didn't have many great results in the last period. I'm pleased with how I've played [in the] past three days, very pleased. “I don't think that there was too much of a difference [between us], which is great news for me. Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay-courts and he's in great, great form. It's very difficult to play him on clay anywhere. “I've never faced this kind of situation before. So I thought that it's not going to take me long to get back to winning ways…I [have] had to learn a lesson and accept the circumstances. But, looking back two or three months, this is the best that I've felt on the court, by far." Nadal is a win away from reclaiming the world No 1 spot Credit: AFP Nadal was pleased with his performance, and said the win would give him "good confidence". Elsewhere at the Foro Italico on Saturday, Jamie Murray and partner Bruno Soares lost their men's doubles semi-final 7-6, 3-6, 10-8 to the Colombian pair Juan Sebastian Farah and Robert Farah. Despite the disappointment, it was a positive week for Murray and Soares, who won consecutive matches for the first time since early March. Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's impressive run ended in the semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat to world No 1 Simona Halep.
Novak Djokovic produces best performance of the year but is outlasted by Rafael Nadal in Rome
With fears growing that this year's French Open could turn into a procession, Novak Djokovic issued a warning on Saturday that Rafael Nadal may not have things all his own way in Paris. Djokovic was ultimately outlasted in a pulsating Italian Open semi-final 7-6, 6-3, but after two years of struggle - and more than 12 months since he had faced a member of the "Big Four" - he at last looked like rediscovering his best form in what was a 51st meeting against his old rival Nadal. During a bruising first set that lasted 73 minutes Djokovic fired winners off both wings that drew gasps from the Foro Italico crowd as even Nadal was made to look pedestrian at times by his opponent's swiftness around the court. The problem for Djokovic was that his high level irritated a snarling Nadal into playing arguably his best tennis of 2018. After weeks of straightforward victories, the raucous Roman crowd was thrilled by Nadal being forced to produce the sort of ruthless big-hitting that makes him almost unbeatable on this surface. After losing the first set on a tie-break, Djokovic faded in the second as Nadal advanced to Sunday's final against German rising star Alexander Zverev. A win for Nadal would see him reclaim the world No 1 ranking from the absent Roger Federer. Djokovic produced a brilliant performance in the first set Credit: Getty Images Djokovic for his part will drop out of the world's top 20 for the first time since 2006 on Monday, but he will surely clamber back up the rankings ladder with more displays like this. “I can only take positives from this week," said Djokovic, who was playing his first semi-final since June. "I didn't really expect anything coming into this tournament, when it comes to results, because I didn't have many great results in the last period. I'm pleased with how I've played [in the] past three days, very pleased. “I don't think that there was too much of a difference [between us], which is great news for me. Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay-courts and he's in great, great form. It's very difficult to play him on clay anywhere. “I've never faced this kind of situation before. So I thought that it's not going to take me long to get back to winning ways…I [have] had to learn a lesson and accept the circumstances. But, looking back two or three months, this is the best that I've felt on the court, by far." Nadal is a win away from reclaiming the world No 1 spot Credit: AFP Nadal was pleased with his performance, and said the win would give him "good confidence". Elsewhere at the Foro Italico on Saturday, Jamie Murray and partner Bruno Soares lost their men's doubles semi-final 7-6, 3-6, 10-8 to the Colombian pair Juan Sebastian Farah and Robert Farah. Despite the disappointment, it was a positive week for Murray and Soares, who won consecutive matches for the first time since early March. Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's impressive run ended in the semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat to world No 1 Simona Halep.
A general view of the central court shows Serbia's Novak Djokovic returning the ball to Spain's Rafael Nadal (R) during their semi final match at Rome's ATP Tennis Open tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome (AFP Photo/TIZIANA FABI)
Open court
A general view of the central court shows Serbia's Novak Djokovic returning the ball to Spain's Rafael Nadal (R) during their semi final match at Rome's ATP Tennis Open tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome (AFP Photo/TIZIANA FABI)
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his men's singles semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his men's singles semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his men's singles semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his men's singles semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his men's singles semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his men's singles semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his men's singles semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his men's singles semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his men's singles semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) celebrates his victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) at the end of their men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) celebrates his victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) at the end of their men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) celebrates his victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) at the end of their men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his men's singles semi final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) celebrates his victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) at the end of their men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) celebrates his victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) at the end of their men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) celebrates his victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) at the end of their men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) celebrates his victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) at the end of their men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) celebrates his victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) at the end of their men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) celebrates his victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) at the end of their men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI
Rome (Italy), 19/05/2018.- Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, 19 May 2018. (España, Tenis, Roma, Italia) EFE/EPA/CLAUDIO ONORATI

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