Rafael Nadal to renew Djokovic rivalry at Italian Open

Rafael Nadal returns to competition after a six-month break chasing a 10th Italian Open title in Rome against his greatest rival Novak Djokovic before his bid for a 13th Roland Garros crown later this month.

The Spaniard has won on the red clay of the Foro Italico, normally played in May but which starts behind closed doors in Rome today, a record nine times, including the last two editions. World No. 1 Djokovic, a four-time Rome winner and five-time runner-up, lost to Nadal last year in the final. Djokovic, 33, is the top seed ahead of World No. 2 Nadal, in the tune-up for the final Grand Slam of the season at the French Open which begins on September 27.

Back from a break

Djokovic won the French Open in 2016, with Nadal having won the last three titles since. Nadal, 34, has not played since winning in Acapulco in February, skipping the US Open over Coronavirus concerns. Djokovic won his 80th career title in Cincinnati last month. He also won his 35th ATP Masters crown, matching Nadal's all-time record.

Djokovic arrives in Rome after his bid for an 18th Grand Slam ended amid controversy at the US Open a week ago when he was disqualified after accidentally striking a female line judge with a ball during his last-16 match. Roger Federer is sidelined due to injury.

Halep tops women's section

Former French Open champ Simona Halep headlines the women's event which also includes defending champion Karolina Pliskova and two-time Rome winner Elina Svitolina. Serena Williams withdrew due to a left Achilles tendon injury sustained in her US Open semi-final defeat.

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