Rafael Nadal beats Roger Federer in Italian Open final

Rafael Nadal dropped only four games as he beat Roger Federer in 68 minutes to win his seventh Italian Open title.

In the 30th career meeting between the pair, who share 28 Grand Slam singles titles, the Spaniard raced to a 6-1 6-3 victory at Rome's Foro Italico.

In 2006 Nadal edged a classic final against Federer in this event, but this year he prevailed with plenty to spare.

"For all of us who treasure one of the greatest rivalries in sporting history, it was a little uncomfortable watching Nadal destroy Federer in the way he has done only once before - in the French Open Final of 2008.

"The truth is that only one man can hope to beat a fully fit Nadal at Roland Garros, and on the evidence of the weekend, even Novak Djokovic looks a long shot.

"Nadal has been a champion six times and a runner-up twice in eight tournaments since returning from that long injury lay-off, and will now return to fourth in the world rankings - ensuring he can't meet Djokovic in Paris until at least the semi-finals."

He has now won six of his eight tournaments since returning in February from a seven-month break due to injury.

"If you'd told me that four or five months ago I would have said you are crazy," said the 26-year-old, who has won 36 of 38 matches in 2013.

"So after eight tournaments, six victories and two finals, it's a dream for me."

Nadal heads to the French Open in tremendous form as he looks to win an Open-era record eighth title at Roland Garros, and knowing he is likely to be seeded fourth - and so potentially avoid leading rival Novak Djokovic until the semi-finals.

With 11 wins in their 13 previous matches on clay, the Spaniard was a heavy favourite against Federer in Rome, but the manner of this victory was still mightily impressive.

Federer, 31, did not help himself with too many unforced errors in the early stages, and his forehand let him down as he was broken in game three.

A fizzing backhand return at the start of game four was Nadal's 11th point out of 13 as he tightened his grip on the first set.

Match stats

Nadal Federer

Match time: 1hr 8mins

1

Aces

1

1

Double faults

0

73%

1st serve %

56%

70%

1st serve win %

56%

72%

2nd serve win %

30%

12

Winners

15

8

Unforced errors

32

5/6

Break points

1/2

He broke again in a stunning rally that ended with a forehand winner that left Federer rooted to the spot, and the first set was over in little more than half an hour.

A humiliation was on the cards when Nadal fired a backhand across Federer to break early in the second set after the Swiss had chipped a backhand down the line and gamely approached the net.

Federer received loud and sympathetic applause when he held serve to claim only his second game of the match, making the score 6-1 3-1 to Nadal.

The reigning champion then produced one of the shots of the tournament with a magnificent backhand winner down the line to break yet again, only for a late Federer flourish.

He cut the deficit by two games to at least prolong the match beyond the hour mark, but Nadal was clinical when he got a second chance to serve it out, doing so to love.

"He played very aggressively from the start," said Federer. "He didn't make too many mistakes and had a good match overall.

"Rafa has much more topspin than all the guys I played this week, so the change was quite a big one. I tried to play offensively, but unfortunately I didn't have the best day.

"It didn't go the way I was hoping it to go."