(CNN)Rafael Nadal had to dig deep to beat Novak Djokovic in the final of the Rome Masters and claim his first title of the season, winning 6-0 4-6 6-1 after more than two hours of intense battle.
It was a thrilling precursor to what could well be the same lineup in the French Open final at Roland Garros next month.
After a patchy start to the clay court season, Nadal looked near his unstoppable best at times against Djokovic who had no answer to his opponent's thundering ground strokes in the opening set, as Nadal secured the first ever bagel in the pair's rivalry -- 54 matches and 142 sets.
Djokovic provided a sterner test for the Spaniard in the second set, impressively saving three break points at 3-3 before going on to break Nadal to win the set.
But momentum swung immediately back in Nadal's favor at the start of the deciding set as he broke Djokovic's serve at the first time of asking, prompting the furious world No. 1 to repeatedly smash his racquet into the clay.
Djokovic may well have been feeling the physical and mental strain from his brutal three-set semifinal against Diego Schwartzman that finished late Saturday night, giving him little time to recover for the final.