Novak Djokovic storms back from a set down to win Rome Masters
Beat reigning champion Nadal in three sets
Djokovic had dedicated previous victories to victims of flooding back home
Traditionally seen as a warm up for next week's French Open
An emotional Novak Djokovic came back from a set down to beat Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the Rome Masters.
Nadal had won the first set 6-4 but Djokovic, who has dedicated his victories from previous rounds to the victims of floods that have deluged both Bosnia and his homeland Serbia, fought back to clinch a memorable victory.
The Rome Masters has been something of a victory procession for Nadal, the defending champion who has won the title seven times.
And it looked like he would make that eight after a steady first set put the Spaniard in control. Djokovic, however, was having none of it. After breaking Nadal’s serve early in the second set Djokovic powered on to win the next two sets and his 19th career Masters title.
“He’s one of the best in the world, he’s playing great,” Nadal said of Djokovic after the defeat.
“I played well for moments, I had my chances for moments, but I could have done with a little more energy at times. My legs didn’t answer me after a tough week.”
“I was able to find positive things during the tournament but I played three very tough matches this week and it was very hard mentally, as well as physically. I was a little bit tired.”
It is the first time in a decade that Nadal has lost three matches in a season on clay.
Djokovic had endured something of a torrid time in Rome, struggling to defeat the young, big-hitting Canadian Milos Raonic in a three hour, three set epic in the semi-finals.
Again Djokovic lost the first set, and again he powered back. After the match, Serbia’s most famous sportsman described how he had been keeping abreast of events back home, sent a message of support and even criticized Western media outlets for not covering the floods adequately.
“There have not been floods like this in the existence of our people,” he said after that match, as reported by The Guardian.
“It is a total catastrophe of biblical proportions. I don’t really know how to describe it. Half the country is in danger of not having any electricity, there is total immobilization, evacuations – and we’re talking about whole cities, not small villages.”
“I see that on CNN, the BBC and other big networks there is a lot about the miners in Turkey, and so forth. This is another disaster, but there is no broadcast from Serbia and Bosnia, nothing about the biggest floods that we have ever seen, that maybe Europe has ever seen. This is incredible.”
Now attention turns to the French Open, which begins next week. Nadal is the reigning champion and has won eight titles in the past nine years.