Rafael Nadal took full advantage of a weather delay to beat defending champion Alexander Zverev in a roller coaster final of the Italian Open 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 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.
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