DJOKOVIC RULES ITAL­IAN OPEN

No­vak far from done Turn­ing to Paris, I couldn’t ask for a bet­ter tour­na­ment here in Rome

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - - SPORTS -

ROME, Italy (AFP) — No­vak Djokovic picked up where he left off be­fore his US Open de­fault two weeks ago, win­ning a fifth Ital­ian Open ti­tle on Mon­day, days be­fore the start of Roland Gar­ros.

The world No. 1 lifted a record 36th Mas­ters crown, one more than great ri­val Rafael Nadal, af­ter beat­ing Diego Schwartz­man 7-5, 6-3 in the fi­nal at the Foro Ital­ico in Rome.

“Turn­ing to Paris, I couldn’t ask for a bet­ter tour­na­ment here in Rome. An­other big ti­tle and I’m su­per pleased,” said Djokovic.

“I don’t think I played my best ten­nis through­out the en­tire week, but I think I found my best ten­nis when I needed it in the de­ci­sive mo­ments.”

Djokovic ex­tended his record to 31 wins from 32 matches this year, with his only loss the US Open dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion for ac­ci­dently hit­ting a line judge with a ball.

Schwartz­man had shocked nine-time tour­na­ment win­ner Rafael Nadal in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

It’s been a good week, even if I haven’t played my best ten­nis. I’m sat­is­fied.

But he ran out of steam in a fi­nal played un­der light driz­zle, hav­ing also spent more than three hours on the court in Sun­day’s semi­fi­nals.

De­spite a great start, with two breaks to lead 3-0, Schwartz­man could not keep the mo­men­tum go­ing against the 17-time Grand Slam win­ner, who notched up his fifth win over the Ar­gen­tinian.

For Djokovic, it was a fifth vic­tory in 10 fi­nals in Rome, but the first since 2015, hav­ing fin­ished run­nerup three times since in­clud­ing last year to Nadal.

“It’s been a good week, even if I haven’t played my best ten­nis. I’m sat­is­fied,” Djokovic said.

Top women’s seed Si­mona Halep lifted her first tro­phy in Rome, a con­fi­dence booster ahead of the French Open, af­ter de­fend­ing cham­pion Karolina Pliskova re­tired in­jured while trail­ing 6-0, 2-1 in the fi­nal.

World No. 2 Halep was com­pet­ing in her third Rome WTA fi­nal, hav­ing fin­ished run­ner-up in 2017 and 2018.

Halep said she was ap­proach­ing Roland Gar­ros “with­out pres­sure, smil­ing,” de­spite the 2018 win­ner now be­ing among the fa­vorites.

“It’s just an­other tour­na­ment. I’m not go­ing to put pres­sure on my­self,” the Wim­ble­don cham­pion in­sisted.

“I played re­ally well this year. I have three ti­tles al­ready. I played so much on clay. I feel con­fi­dent.

“I just try to be happy, to take the pos­i­tives from this tour­na­ment, and to go there smil­ing.”

Pliskova’s ti­tle de­fense was ham­pered by pain in her left thigh.

“It was grow­ing worse and worse with every day,” she said.

“This morn­ing I even won­dered if I was go­ing to play, but you still want to try,” said the Czech, who “hopes” to re­cover in time for Roland Gar­ros.

Swept aside 6-0 in the first set, she seemed to re­cover in the se­cond and had just won her first game when she headed for Halep to call time on her match.

For Halep it was a third tour­na­ment win this year af­ter Dubai in Fe­bru­ary and Prague last month, to ex­tend her win­ning streak to 14 con­sec­u­tive matches.

The 28-year-old Ro­ma­nian did not com­pete in the US Open be­cause of coro­n­avirus fears, but said she had felt safe in the Ital­ian cap­i­tal.

“I want to thank ev­ery­one be­cause the tour­na­ment went well, and in these con­di­tions it’s not easy,” she said.

“We felt re­ally safe and re­ally good on and off the courts, even though we stayed of­ten in our ho­tel rooms. We ac­cepted it, be­cause we like to play tour­na­ments.”

RIC­CARDO ANTIMIANI/ AGENCE FRANCEPRES­SE NO­VAK Djokovic beams with pride af­ter win­ning the Ital­ian Open.

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