- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2011

ROME - Novak Djokovic extended his recent mastery over top-ranked Rafael Nadal with a 6-4, 6-4 win in the Italian Open final Sunday that stretched the Serb’s unbeaten start this year to 37 matches.

The second-ranked Djokovic has defeated Nadal in all four finals they’ve played this year.

He beat the Spaniard for the first time on clay in last week’s Madrid Open final.

Djokovic became the first player to beat Nadal on clay twice in the same year, a feat that comes exactly a week before the French Open starts.

Djokovic could overtake Nadal for the No. 1 ranking the week after Roland Garros.

Djokovic’s streak this year trails only John McEnroe’s 42-0 start in 1984. Overall, Djokovic has won 39 consecutive matches, stretching back to Serbia’s Davis Cup title in December.

That’s sixth best in the Open era, seven behind Guillermo Vilas’ record set in 1977.

Earlier, Maria Sharapova beat Sam Stosur 6-2, 6-4 in the woman’s final for the biggest clay-court title of her career.

After a three-hour rain delay, the seventh-seeded Sharapova won the opening four games, then cruised from there to follow up her victory over top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals.