Victory in Rome for Novak Djokovic, but his heart is in Serbia

World No 2 Novak Djokovic extended his run of dominance over Rafael Nadal by rallying for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory on Sunday to win the Italian Open for the third time, then dedicated the victory to his flood-ravaged countrymen in Serbia.
Novak Djokovic signs autographs in support of his native Serbia after defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain in the final of the Rome Masters on May 18, 2014. Julian Finney / Getty Images
Novak Djokovic signs autographs in support of his native Serbia after defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain in the final of the Rome Masters on May 18, 2014. Julian Finney / Getty Images

ROME // World No 2 Novak Djokovic extended his run of dominance over Rafael Nadal by rallying for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory on Sunday to win the Italian Open for the third time, then dedicated the victory to his flood-ravaged countrymen in Serbia.

Having also been beaten Nadal in Monte Carlo and Barcelona this season, it marked the first time in a decade that the top-ranked Nadal has lost more than two matches on clay in the same year.

Djokovic carved a heart on the clay with his racket to celebrate his title.

“This heart on the court is for you,” he told the fans in Italian during the victory ceremony. “It’s also a special dedication to my country, which is suffering a lot right now. My heart is with them.”

Authorities say 25 people have died this week in the Balkans because of the worst flooding in a century. Three months’ worth of rain fell on the region in three days and tens of thousands of homes were left without electricity or drinking water.

Djokovic has now won four straight matches against Nadal – the previous three were in straight sets – and takes the psychological edge into the French Open, which starts next weekend.

The French Open is the only grand slam that Djokovic has yet to win, with his best result a runner-up finish in 2012. Nadal has won the clay-court title at Roland Garros eight times.

Djokovic’s other Rome titles came in 2008 and 2011.

Midway through the final set, Djokovic earned a decisive break as Nadal made several uncharacteristic errors, and then broke again to close it out.

In the final game, Djokovic blasted a backhand cross-court return winner past Nadal, before a backhand from the Spaniard sailed long on the second match point.

Djokovic, who sat out last week’s Madrid Open with a right wrist injury, hit 46 winners to Nadal’s 15, while the unforced errors column was nearly even, with Djokovic committing 30 and Nadal 27.

Djokovic’s serve was also a factor. He hit six aces while Nadal had none. Nadal was pushed to three sets in four out of his five matches in Rome.

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Paying respect to her opponent, a humble Williams takes the 60th title of her career

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World No 1 Serena Williams won the Rome Masters after seeing off Italian favourite Sara Errani in a final ruined by injury to her opponent.

Errani had recovered from a break down to bring the first set back on serve, but required lengthy off-court treatment on her left hip and thigh.

Upon the resumption of play, Williams won seven straight games to seal the title 6-3, 6-0 for her third WTA Tour title of the season and the 60th of her career.

Rather than revel in the moment, though, she paid tribute to her stricken opponent.

Speaking mostly in Italian at the on-court presentation, Williams said: “I’m really sorry for Sara because she’s played so well all week. I wish her good luck at Roland Garros.

“I’m really happy about today.”

Williams started as she meant to go on, with a thumping forehand winner on the opening point, but followed up with a double fault.

She held serve and broke her opponent at the first opportunity, opening up a 3-0 lead before Errani got on the board in the next game.

A deft net volley demonstrated Williams’s abilities beyond mere power but she reverted to type to save a break point with her third ace as she held for a 4-1 lead.

Errani broke back in the seventh game to trail only 4-3 – but Williams immediately responded in kind and, after Errani’s injury time-out, went on to serve out the set. The Italian was clearly limited by the injury to her left thigh as Williams powered through the early games of the second set, breaking twice to lead 3-0.

Errani was unable to chase down anything placed far away from her. Williams ruthlessly did so at every opportunity, breaking to 15 to set up the chance to serve for the match and finishing the job with ease.

Errani tearfully apologized to the crowd, which cheered her along all week, for her inability to win.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “You have been wonderful all week, and I only continued playing because of you.”

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Published: May 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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