World number two Novak Djokovic stunned the top-seeded and defending champion Rafael Nadal in the final of the Rome Masters 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to clinch his 19th Masters and third title at the Foro Italico on Sunday.
Chasing his eighth title in the Italian capital, Nadal headed into the match as the favourite after registering a thumping win in the semifinals. The Spaniard started the match strongly and broke Djokovic's serve twice to build a 4-1 lead. He capitalized on the Serb's unforced errors and claimed the first set 6-4.
The second-seed Djokovic displayed a much-improved performance in the second and broke Nadal's serve in the second game. Nadal, however, managed to get the break back, but the Serb forced the decider as unforced errors crawled into the Spaniard's game.
Djokovic carried the second set momentum into the decider and broke Nadal's serve early to build a 2-0 lead. Nadal managed to level the set 3-3 by breaking Djokovic's serve, but the Spaniard handed the break to the Serb in the seventh game.
The 26-year-old held his service game and broke Nadal's serve for the second time in third set to complete a memorable win against the seven-time champion.
"It's been a great week considering where I've been a few weeks ago with the wrist injury," said Djokovic. "Luckily for me, I played with no pain and increased the level of tennis as the week went on. I've had some tough matches."
Djokovic said winning the match after going down in the first set will give him a lot of confidence ahead of the French Open, which starts next week.
"Four out of five matches were three-setters and I had to come back from one set down yesterday against Raonic and today [Sunday] again," he said. "That gives me a lot of confidence. Winning against Rafa in the final of a big tournament on clay, his preferred surface, is definitely a confidence booster."
Nadal said Djokovic pushed him in the entire match and playing a tough tournament before the second Grand Slam of the year will give him encouragement heading into Roland Garros.
"I felt that Novak was pushing me and has a great talent to play inside the lines," said Nadal. "I think this week is important for me. I won 600 points.
"I was able to play in another final here. I was able to compete well against one of the best players of the moment. I arrive to Roland Garros now more encouraged than how I felt a few weeks ago."