Meeting for the 57th time in one of tennis’s greatest-ever rivalries, it was the Spaniard who emerged victorious as he claimed a battling 7-5 1-6 6-3 victory over the Serbian world number one.
It was an engaging tussle on the red clay of the Italian capital, as Nadal edged a mammoth opening set which lasted 1 hour 15 minutes before Djokovic reasserted himself in the second set.
The deciding set was evenly poised before Djokovic failed to take two break points in the fifth game, with Nadal capitalizing by breaking his rival in the next game and continuing to serve out the match.
The victory moved Nadal to 10 titles in Rome and shuffled him closer to Djokovic in overall head-to-head meetings, which the Serb still leads 29-28 overall.
Sunday’s showdown was the sixth time the pair had met at this stage in Rome, with Nadal now holding a 4-2 lead in Italian Open finals over Djokovic, who remains on five titles to his name at the event.