Novak Djokovic claimed the fourth Italian Open title of his career with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Roger Federer Sunday, maintaining his flawless clay court record in 2015 in the process.
Federer is one of only two men to beat Djokovic this year (the other being Ivo Karlovic) with the Swiss coming out on top in the final of the hard court Dubai Tennis Championships in February.
But Djokovic avenged that reverse at the Indian Wells Masters event just over a month later.
Unsurprisingly, given the pair’s fine form in recent months, it was a closely-fought match right from the start Sunday.
Both men looked strong on serve throughout the first set but it was the Serb who was to draw first blood with a break at the most crucial time.
Leading 5-4, Djokovic pulled out a magnificent cross court shot to give himself breakpoint. And when Federer netted on the next point, the first set was the Serb’s.
Djokovic had complained about the state of the Rome courts after Saturday’s semifinal win over David Ferrer, stating that there were “really deep holes” at the Foro Italico.
But if someone was struggling with the surface Sunday it wasn’t the Serbinator.
Federer bizarrely lost the flight of the ball at a crucial juncture of his first service game of the second set, helping Djokovic on the way to another break that put him firmly in the driving seat.
By the middle of the second set the world No. 1 had total control, holding serve comfortably and racking up a dominant 30 points from the baseline compared to Federer’s 12.
Before long, Djokovic was serving to take the set 6-3 and with it the match.
Djokovic now goes into the French Open, the year’s second grand slam, later this month with an unblemished clay court record this season. He now has 24 Masters-level titles – one more than Federer and three behind Rafael Nadal’s leading tally.
The victory also signified his 22nd win on the bounce since going down to Federer in Dubai.
“The fact I’ve managed to win that many matches in a row … gives me a reason to believe I can do it again,” he later said in quotes carried by the AFP news agency.
“I will keep going as long as I can. I try always to give my best on the court regardless of the tournament or the particular match I am playing.
“This kind of mindset has got me where I am now… and hopefully it’s gonna take me far in Roland Garros.”
Federer, by comparison, was disappointed with the way the match transpired but remained positive about his general form.
“I know I can play better,” Federer said. “Novak was rock solid today, he played great throughout. He made very few unforced errors. (But) I’m happy, feeling good and healthy.”
Sharapova secures victory
In the women’s final earlier in the day, Maria Sharapova overcame Carla Suarez Navarro as she finalized preparations for the defense of her French Open crown.
The Russian had to fight back from a set down against the Spaniard before eventually prevailing 4-6 7-5 6-1.
Despite not being in total control all afternoon and making too many errors for her liking against the world No. 10, Sharapova was content to claim the third Italian Open title of her career.
Suarez Navarro has lost seven of her eight career finals, three of them this year.
“I thought the errors I was making … were really close. I felt like I was doing the right thing and I’m glad I gave myself a chance to cut those down,” Sharapova said.
“She is a really all-around player who can step in, can step back. She was really far behind the baseline and I feel like I took advantage of that.
“(But) I felt that I was the fresher one, felt like I was more aggressive.”