ROME - Rafael Nadal is looking unstoppable on clay for a fifth consecutive year.
The top-ranked Spaniard won his record fourth Rome Masters on Sunday, beating defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (2), 6-2 for his third clay-court title in three weeks, adding to his victories at the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open.
Having only dropped one set over the three-week stretch, it's tough to imagine someone taking three sets from Nadal at the French Open, which begins in three weeks.
The Spaniard will be aiming for a record fifth consecutive title at Roland Garros, which would break a tie with Bjorn Borg, who won six French Opens overall.
"Every tournament is completely different," said Nadal, who will play in the Madrid Masters before heading to Paris. "In Roland Garros we will see. Important thing is (to) play well. If I am playing well, I'm going to have a lot of chances to have good results in both tournaments. But you never know what can happen. Tennis is always like this."
Djokovic is the only player to take a set from Nadal on clay this year, in the Monte Carlo final two weeks ago. While Sunday's match was more lopsided, the Serb is shaping up as Nadal's most serious challenger in Paris.
Djokovic had rallied on Saturday to beat Roger Federer in the semifinals.
"I've been playing really well in the last three Masters Series events, and I'm really happy with the shape I'm in," said Djokovic, who began working with Thomas Muster's former trainer, Gebhard Phil-Gritsch, last week.
"I will try to stay physically fit, because that's what I'm going to need very much in (the) upcoming month and a half or two months until Wimbledon is over," Djokovic said.
Nadal extended his winning streak on clay to 30 matches, stretching back to an opening-round loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero in Rome last year. He broke an Open Era tie with Muster, who won Rome titles in 1990, 1995 and 1996. Jaroslav Drobny and Martin Mulligan also each won three titles before the Open Era.
Chris Evert holds the women's record at the Foro Italico with five titles.
Nadal wasted two opportunities to serve out the first set but took control in the tiebreaker, and Djokovic double-faulted to hand Nadal a 4-2 lead in the second set.
"I had my chances," Djokovic said. "He overcomes the pressure better than me, that's why he's the best in the world. But overall, I'm pretty happy with the week."
By failing to defend his title, Djokovic will lose the No. 3 ranking to Andy Murray on May 11, when last year's points drop out. The 21-year-old has been No. 3 since August 2007.
Djokovic, who is known for his imitations, mimicked Nadal during the trophy presentation, rolling his sleeves up, pulling his shorts down slightly and reaching down to arrange his socks as Nadal does before every point.
"I can't win on the court but I win the impression contest," Djokovic said.