The bookmakers already considered Novak Djokovic the favourite to win the French Open and their conviction will be strengthened by Sunday’s Rome Masters final. The world No 1’s emphatic 6-4, 6-3 victory here over Roger Federer continued his remarkable run of success and reinforces the belief that this could at last be his time to triumph in Paris.
Djokovic has been sweeping all before him this year and Federer only briefly looked capable of stopping him. In the last seven months Djokovic has won the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, the Australian Open, and the Masters Series tournaments in Paris, Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and now Rome. This was his 22nd victory in a row. He did not win the recent Madrid Open but that was because he didn’t enter.
Since 2011 Djokovic has needed the French Open to become just the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam. Rafael Nadal, who has beaten Djokovic in all six of their meetings at Roland Garros, has stood in his way until now, but the nine-times champion will go to Paris, where the tournament starts in six days’ time, struggling for form, having failed to win a European clay-court title in the build-up for the first time for 11 years.
Federer still sees Nadal as the favourite to win in Paris – “Novak is not Rafa on clay,” he had said when talking up his own chances before Sunday’s final – but on present form it is hard to see any champion other than Djokovic. Federer was the last player to beat Djokovic, in the Dubai final in February, but this was the Serb’s 13th victory in their last 20 meetings.
The hottest day of the Rome tournament saw the temperature peak at 30C on an afternoon of glorious sunshine. It did not take long for the players to warm to their task as both went for their shots. Djokovic saved the first break point at 4-4 and it was the Serb who made the decisive breakthrough in the following game. A scorching forehand return brought up set point, which Djokovic converted when Federer netted a backhand under pressure after another crunching return.
Djokovic, flying around the court and finding a consistently damaging length on his ground shots, was putting Federer under relentless pressure. The Swiss crumbled again at the start of the second set, netting two successive forehands to give Djokovic the only break he needed. Djokovic eventually served out for victory after just 75 minutes, completing the job when Federer missed a forehand.
Almost the only false move Djokovic made was when he opened the champion’s bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne and the cork hit him on the head. Moet & Chandon are one of Federer’s sponsors.
Federer admitted afterwards that Djokovic had been “too strong” for him. Djokovic, who delighted the crowd by talking in Italian at the presentation ceremony, said the final had been his best match of the week and that this was his best year, along with his “annus mirabilis” in 2011, when he went into the French Open undefeated. “I will try to continue my form at Roland Garros,” he said. Djokovic has now won 19 of the last 41 Masters Series tournaments, which are the level just below the Grand Slam events.
Only Nadal, with 27 Masters titles, can beat his career haul of 24. Federer, meanwhile, is still looking for his first victory in Rome, having appeared in the tournament 15 times.
Nevertheless, he will be in a better frame of mind going into the French Open than he was when he lost first time out in Madrid two weeks ago.
Maria Sharapova won the women’s title for the third time in the last five years, beating Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 after a gruelling contest that lasted more than two and a half hours.
The 28-year-old Russian will be defending her title at the French Open but had not been at her best in recent weeks. Without this victory she would have gone to Roland Garros without a clay-court title to her name for the first time since 2009.
Sharapova, claiming the 35th title of her career, hit 39 winners to her opponent’s 12. She will return to No 2 in the world rankings on Monday, while Suarez Navarro is expected to climb to a career-high position at No 8.Reuse content