Novak Djokovic back with a bang as he claims Italian Open title

Serb beats Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets a week before start of French Open

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Novak Djokovic raised his first trophy of the year at the Italian Open on Sunday and showed that he’s back in top form exactly a week before the French Open starts.

After missing a large portion of the season because he wasn’t vaccinated against the coronavirus, the top-ranked Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6 for his sixth Rome title.

“I’ve been building my form the last few weeks,” Djokovic said. “It couldn’t be a better timing coming into Roland Garros.”

Djokovic didn’t drop a set all week, having won his 1,000th career match over Casper Ruud in the semi-finals.

It was his 12th final at the Foro Italico and the Serb said: “This court has always been very, very special.

“It’s given me joy when I really needed positive sensations. Whenever my form was a bit down I’ve found energy in this city.”

Djokovic needed only 30 minutes to win the opening set, during which Tsitsipas got so frustrated at one point that he banged his racket against his bag during a changeover and mangled the frame.

After falling behind early in the second, Djokovic stepped up his game when Tsitsipas served for the set at 5-3.

First, Djokovic ripped a forehand cross-court return winner that landed on the line, then on the next point he pushed Tsitsipas from corner to corner before the fifth-ranked Greek resorted to a drop shot attempt that landed in the net. Djokovic celebrated with a series of fist pumps as the crowd chanted his nickname: “NO-LE, NO-LE.”

When a backhand from Tsitsipas sailed wide on the first match point, Djokovic simply raised his arms and smiled.

During the trophy ceremony, Djokovic made a special dedication: “Today at four [pm] when we started this match my son Stefan, who is seven years old, was playing his first tennis match. I hope he won. This is for him.”

Djokovic, who was deported because of his unvaccinated status before the Australian Open, had not won a tournament since raising the Paris Masters trophy in November.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion reached the final of his home Serbia Open last month. He was beaten by 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open semi-finals last week.

But it was the perfect week in Rome for the 34-year-old, who became only the fifth man in the open era to reach the 1,000 wins milestone after Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl and Rafa Nadal.

Updated: May 15, 2022, 5:35 PM
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