The creative Djokovic wins Madrid, now playing Rome

Years ago, the No. 1 Novak Djokovic could not figure out on clay, he was pretty decent, but not fantastic. But now, the Serbian more or less knows how to construct his points.

On Sunday, Djokovic won Madrid, beating the young but tired Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 6-4. He has won 14 Grand Slams, and he has also won 33 Masters 1000 titles. Overall, he has won 74 crowns. Without a doubt, he is one of the best players ever — along with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

This week, he will play in Rome, another huge event, and he has won it four times. We all know that his serve and his backhand are legendary. His forehand has also improved a lot, when he can spin it or flatten it out. He is also very efficient at the net, and he can return the first serves almost better than anyone. Let us just say that he, Federer and Nadal can find a way to get their rackets and get it back. Djokovic’s returns are best, when he gets them back deep.

However, he is not perfect — nobody is. So, even if wins Rome again, does that mean that he will automatically grab Roland Garros again in a few weeks? He did it once, in 2016, beating Dominic Thiem in the semis — he crushed him — and then he put down Andy Murray in the final in four sets. That was very good stuff by Djokovic.

But hold on. Last year, at RG, he lost in the quarters to Italian Marco Cecchinato. Djokovic wasn’t quite ready to dance again, because he had been hurt, so it had taken him five months to be confident again.

So, then his confidence boomed, as he grabbed Wimbledon, the US Open, and then in 2019, he won Australia. That is three in a row at the Slams. Can he do it, four in a row at the majors? Very few have done that, just a few, like Aussie Rod Laver, who did it twice. But that has been a long time, almost 50 years ago.

Now we are in 2019. Djokovic is very smart on court, and he finally likes the sliding clay. He should be mentally happy in Rome, but in Paris, in the second week — assuming he wins three matches — then the pressure is on. And he will know that

On Thursday, he will face the young, good Canadian Denis Shapovalov. The blonde, 20-years-old Shapovalov can really crack it, and he is ranked No. 22. This year, he can reach the top 10 in the summer, but on clay, he can get frustrated and then he stops thinking. He cannot do that for only a second, as Djokovic will attack him quickly. Djokovic has done it hundreds of times and should do it again on Thursday.

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