Rome: Rafael Nadal rediscovered his clay court form after a rare wobble in the semi-finals to beat fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5 6-2 in Sunday`s rain-hit final and claim his fifth Rome Masters title in six years.
The chinks in the armour that Latvian Ernests Gulbis exposed in Saturday`s three-setter were not in evidence as Ferrer never threatened an upset.
The third seed broke serve twice in the gap between two rain interruptions to take the first set and assume command of the second before cruising home.
It was not quite the superlative tennis Nadal displayed to claim his sixth Monte Carlo Masters two weeks ago, but conditions were soggy and he still looks ready to take his fifth title at the upcoming French Open after an injury-hit 2009.
"I probably didn`t play like in Monte Carlo," he told a news conference. "I played well, but not at the same level as Monte Carlo, but I still won and that`s important for me."
The former world number one had nothing to show for the pressure he put on his opponent`s serve before rain stopped the action at 4-4, after he had failed to convert five break points in the fifth game.
He seized his chance when play resumed and then saved a break point before wrapping up the first set with a booming serve that 13th seed Ferrer could not return in court.
Nadal turned up the heat and Ferrer surrendered serve again after some valiant resistance in the third game of the second set before the downpours caused another delay.
Ferrer, whipped in the semi-finals by Nadal at Monte Carlo 15 days ago, then caved in on serve again with a sloppy game and Nadal held his with ease to triumph more than four hours after the match had started.
"Maybe the court was slower and I had problems to make points (after the first rain stop)," Ferrer said.
"Rafa had chances in important moments and it`s difficult to beat him but I`m happy with my game."
Sunday`s victory gave six-times Grand Slam winner Nadal his 17th career Masters title to equal Andre Agassi`s tally.
"I hope to improve his record but you never know," he said. "I`m 23 and I`m happy about what I`ve done. Seventeen is a very important number."