“Every time I have the chance to fight for a trophy there, it’s always a thrill”
There are many tournaments on the ATP Tour where Novak Djokovic has tasted success time and time again. The Italian Open is definitely one of the top tournaments on this list.
Djokovic has already won the Roma title five times. One of his triumphs there came in 2014, when he beat arch-rival Rafael Nadal in the final.
In a recent interview with the ATP, the Serbian ace sat down to reminisce about his epic victory which he had to work extremely hard for. Expressing his love for the Italian Open, the world No. 1 said:
“It is without a doubt one of the greatest tournaments in the world. Of course, every time I have the chance to fight for a trophy there, it’s always a thrill.
“I always had a lot of support in Rome. Center court – one of the most beautiful center courts in the world of tennis,” he added. “That kind of surface where it’s unpredictable. It’s that kind of surface where if you drop your serve, it’s not as bad as dropping your serve on a fast hard court.”
Djokovic’s run in the 2014 edition began with a straight-set victory over Radek Stepanek before a close battle with Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. He had a tough draw from the start and shed light on the kind of challenges he faced early on in the tournament on the most demanding surface in tennis.
“Clay is a kind of surface where you have to win every point and every win,” he explained. “I had three or four three-set matches in the whole tournament. I remember the one against Kohlschreiber – clay court specialist and lots of top spins. I worked my way through those matches, very physical.”
Djokovic then faced David Ferrer in the quarter-finals – a player he called “one of the greatest competitors” he had ever faced. The Serbian superstar said he felt a boost of confidence after beating Ferrer 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, especially on clay, in that Roma campaign in 2014.
Chasing his third Rome title at the time, Djokovic went on to win a tough semi-final against Canadian Milos Raonic 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-3 in a match that s turned out to be his third consecutive battle in three sets. of the week.
“When I managed to beat that game (against Raonic), going into the final against Rafa (Nadal), even though I wasn’t the freshest, I felt like I was ready for another battle” , did he declare.
Facing Rafael Nadal in a final on clay is considered one of the toughest tasks in tennis, and the Serb has admitted that. However, he knew he had to produce another epic performance to get the job done against his arch-rival.
“He (Rafa) always comes out very hot from the blocks,” Djokovic said. “Most of his games, especially on clay, he gets an early break and brings so much intensity onto the court. Just full top-spins from the start. It’s hard to deal with those balls, it takes a little time to adapt to it and adapt to it.
“If you can weather the first storm, you might have a chance to win it,” he added. “You know you’re going to get a lot of service breaks if you play against Nadal. I wasn’t too worried about that…I liked my chances.”
The then world number 2 lost the opening set to Nadal and made a comeback for the ages to win the final 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Rome has always been a special tournament for Djokovic and he recently set a staggering record there after reaching the 2022 quarter-finals – becoming the first player to reach 16 consecutive quarter-finals at the same Masters 1000 event.
How is Novak Djokovic preparing for Roland-Garros 2022?
The world’s highest-ranked player has started the current clay-court season slowly, but picked up the pace quite quickly.
After a second-round defeat in Monte Carlo last month, he advanced to the final of his home event in Belgrade, before falling narrowly in a classic Madrid semi-final against Carlos Alcaraz.
The game of the double Roland-Garros champion has continued to strengthen with each match over the past few weeks. He is now chasing his sixth title in Rome and a record 38th Masters 1000 trophy and will travel to Paris in full confidence ahead of the defense of his Roland Garros crown.