It has been six months since Novak Djokovic won a singles title. The last one was at Paris Bercy when he defeated Daniil Medvedev. The 2022 season has been a very strange one for the world No.1 and not since 2018 has it taken him so long to win his first title of a season.
Novak has amended the situation with one of the most prestigious events there is, the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, generally known as the Italian Open and second only to the French Open when it comes to clay court importance. He has taken one hour 26 minutes to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6(5) to capture his sixth title at the famed Foro Italico, a glorious facility built in the late 1930's.
"To some extent it's a relief because after everything that happened at the beginning of the year, was important for me to win a big title, especially with Grand Slams coming up where obviously I want to play my best and be at the level of confidence I think more than just the game, where I want to be in order to have a chance to win the title," Djokovic said.
"I always kind of found my groove here because of the support, because of an amazing energy the crowd gives on and off the court.
"I couldn't ask for a better week really. Played a perfect set today. Didn't drop a set the whole tournament. I trusted the process really when I started training on clay. I knew that even though I did not have tournaments prior to Monte-Carlo, I still felt rusty on the court. I knew I'm kind of player, particularly on clay, that needs more time, at least three, four weeks to get to the desired level. Historically that's always been the case.
"I usually peak here in Rome. I've had six titles but also had a lot of finals, semi-finals. Always a really good week of tennis with a lot of matches, competitiveness on the court. Anything that I was really looking for here in Rome I got. It's the perfect kind of preparation and lead-up to Roland Garros."
The scoreline was a stark contrast to their last meeting which was at last year's French Open final when Tsitsipas was up two sets to love. The first set in this Rome final was the first time Tsitsipas had lost an opening set 6-0. He said Djokovic was just too good and when things got tight in the second, he found it tough to push through with his own game.
"Just trying to stay in the match as much as I could," Tsitsipas said. "It's about finding solutions. Just trying to find solutions on the second set. Such a shame. I was serving for the second set. I think I had chances of even going a double break up.
"I also kind of felt like, you know, a little bit of extra energy that you need to make it, to finish the second set, it was not really there. I was looking for it. I was pushing myself to get to that point.
"I don't know, he played really well. He started amazing. He played great tennis. Really closing the gap in most of the shots. Behind every single ball. Incredible handling of every single ball, not giving away any unforced errors."
Djokovic did not lose a set the whole week and beside this being his sixth title in Rome, it was his 18th on clay, his 38th ATP masters 1000 and 87th career title. And adding to the stats and figures, this was his 1,001st. match win. He passed the 1,000 milestone when he beat Casper Rudd in the semis. Novak is only the fifth player in the Open era to score 1,000 match wins and joins Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,251), Ivan Lendl (1,068) and Rafa Nadal (1,051) with that honour.
Djokovic is in his 370th week as No.1 and at 34 years, 11 months, 23 days, Novak Djokovic has become the oldest men's champion in Rome in the Open era.
The doubles title went to Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, they account for John Isner and Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-7, 12-10. For the record, Isner is the first man to reach the finals of three consecutive Masters 1000's with three different partners - won Indian Wells with Jack Sock and won Miami with Hubert Hurkacz.