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Rafael Nadal battles past old foe Novak Djokovic into Italian Open final

• Nadal closes on ninth title in Rome with 7-6 (4) 6-3 win
• Djokovic looked back to near his best despite defeat

Almost a year to the day since the 50th match of their rivalry – the longest in the Open era – Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic collided gloriously again under a beating sun in Rome, and the Spaniard was stretched to the limit to preserve his aura on clay a week before the French Open.

If Nadal wins his eighth Italian Open title on Sunday he will be back at No1 in the world; if he loses, the absent Roger Federer will stay at the top until 24 June – two days before the Wimbledon seedings are announced.

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