Rafael Nadal has now won eight Italian Open titles ©Getty Images

Pre-tournament favourite Rafael Nadal survived a scare against defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany to emerge triumphant at the Italian Open in Rome today.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion flew out of the blocks at the Foro Italico and secured a convincing 6-1 victory in the first set to go 1-0 up.

Germany’s Zverev, however, put in a sublime performance of his own in the second set and drew back on level terms with a 6-1 win of his own.

The 21-year-old then went 3-1 up in the deciding third set and it seemed he was going to reclaim the title he won a year ago.

Unfortunately for him, his flow was disrupted by a short rain delay, which sapped his momentum and allowed the experienced Spaniard Nadal, who is widely seen as the greatest clay court player of all time, to come back and win the set 6-3, ensuring he got his hands on the title.

Elina Svitolina defended the women's title ©Getty Images
Elina Svitolina defended the women's title ©Getty Images

Nadal will regain the world number one spot from Roger Federer following his victory.

In the women's final, fourth seed Ukrainian Elina Svitolina thrashed world number one Simona Halep of Romania to defender her title in a rematch of last year's final.

The 23-year-old was in especially scintillating form in the first set as she ran out a 6-0 winner in just 19 minutes, leading Halep’s coach Darren Cahill to have some harsh words with his player.

Although the Romanian had suffered a bruising in that first set, she would not have completely lost hope as she was a set and 5-1 down to Svitolina at last year's French Open before coming out on top.

There was no repeat this time, however, as Svitolina stormed to a 6-4 win in the second to claim her second Italian Open title in a row.

The tournament was a key warm-up to the French Open, the clay court Grand Slam which begins on May 27.

It is an Association of Tennis Professionals Masters 1000 tournament and a Premier 5 event on the Women's Tennis Association tour.