In the final of the 2013 Rome Masters, Rafael Nadal continued his clay-court dominance by decimating Roger Federer in straight sets. With the 6-1, 6-3 win, Nadal moves to 37-2 since returning from a seven-month injury layoff and earns his fifth tournament win in seven tries.
Most importantly, Nadal proves that he's still the best in the world.
As Nadal has battled injuries and thus missed an extended period of time, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have risen to the top of the tennis world. Since Nadal has returned, however, the balance of power has returned to it's proper place.
With Nadal on top.
To truly reclaim that No. 1 ranking, it's imperative that Nadal maintains this dominance throughout the course of the season. It's of equal importance that he manages to take down Djokovic in head-to-head clashes as he regains he strength.
As for why, those same folks that said Federer was better than Nadal as the Spaniard dominated their head-to-head battles will call Djokovic's win a sign of superiority—the hypocrisy of biased analysis.
Fortunately for Nadal, he's in prime position to solidify his status as the greatest clay-court performer to ever live. That next test will come at the 2013 French Open, which is an event Nadal has dominated.
Dominance that appears replicable in 2013.
Prepping for the French Open
Rafael Nadal has won three consecutive tournaments, dominating the Barcelona Open, Madrid Open and the Rome Masters. In that time, he has defeated the likes of Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka.
All of this success sets the stage for continued dominance of the French Open.
Nadal has won seven of the past eight French Open events, including the 2012 event on battered legs. During the 2012 event, he lost just one set and proved to be the greatest French Open champion in the history of the sport.
A win in 2013 would tie the all-time record of eight held by Max Decugis, who played when it was a French-only event.
With the rust officially shaken off, Nadal is in prime position to continue his dominance and win his 12th career grand slam event. With 11 titles to his name—including four not at the French Open—Nadal is more decorated than any active player not named Federer.
By comparison, Djokovic—just one year younger than Nadal—has six Grand Slam titles.
All About Success
When it comes to the elite players of the world, the group is limited to four players. That, of course, is Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, in whichever order you'd like to rank them.
Due to the tight nature of their greatness, it all comes down to two factors—who is the most accomplished and which player is the hottest?
The latter means of evaluation may seem lackluster, but it's the only way to truly determine who the best is. Abilities will always shine through, but success is the only way to measure which player is above their competition.
With Murray still having something to prove and Federer past his prime, it now comes down to Nadal and Djokovic.
Djokovic owns the head-to-head victory against Nadal this season, but has seen early exits in consecutive tournaments. He also lost to Tommy Haas in the fourth round of the Sony Open, which suggests one of two things:
Either the world has figured out how to play Djokovic, or he's hit a dry spell.
Nadal, meanwhile, is picking up where he left off, winning as many titles in 2013—five—as Djokovic and Murray have won combined. It certainly doesn't hurt that Nadal and Federer own the career Grand Slam, while Murray and Djokovic are still in pursuit.
When it comes right down to it, the only player that's even close to as successful as Nadal is the more decorated Federer—the aging legend.
When it comes right down to it, Djokovic is beginning his tenure of dominance, while Nadal is picking up where he left off on his road to legendary status. With Nadal dominating every tournament he plays in, one thing is perfectly clear.
Nadal is still the best in the world, and he couldn't have come back soon enough.