Rafael Nadal poses with the trophy after beating Germany's Alexander Zverev in the Italian Open final. Photo: Gregorio Borgia/AP

ROME – Rafael Nadal won the Italian Open for the eighth time on Sunday when he defeated defending champion Alexander Zverev 6-1 1-6 6-3 after a stunning comeback.

German second seed Zverev was 3-1 up in the decider before two rain stoppages halted his momentum.

Top seed Nadal raced away with the last five games to secure a 32nd Masters title and ensure a return to the world number one spot.

The 31-year-old also showed why he will once again be the runaway favourite when Roland Garros begins in a week, where he’ll be bidding for an 11th French Open title.

Zverev, 21, came to the court riding a 13-match win streak, which included last weekend’s trophy in Madrid.

However, by the end of Sunday’s rain-hit final, his record against the Spaniard stood at five defeats in five meetings.

Nadal was 3-1 down at the first rain break, but cut the gap on the resumption.

After a further half an hour off court during the second interruption, Nadal came back out firing, winning four straight games to wrap up the win on his second match point.

“The rain break was so important, I didn’t think it would help me, but it did. I was able to come back out with clear ideas, I’m very happy,” said Nadal.

“To win Rome eight times is amazing, it’s hard to describe. To have the chance to win here again is so great. As for Roland Garros, I’m going to enjoy this victory and think about Paris in a few days.

“For Alexander, it’s amazing to have won that many matches in a row,” Nadal said after winning in just over two hours.

“Today this trophy is with me for a short time, but I’m sure you will get it again.”

Nadal remains the best clay-court player of the Open Era, with an astonishing 408-36 record.

He will next seek an 11th French Open crown to match the 11 he owns from Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

“You are an amazing champion and you proved that today,” Zverev told the Spaniard at the trophy presentation.

“You are the greatest clay player of all time, we all saw that. I’m disappointed that my streak is over, but I did lose to Rafa, so maybe it’s okay. I was so close, but I lost it at the end.”