Novak Djokovic: ‘It could not be better going into Roland Garros’

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal

It took Serbian Novak Djokovic weeks before he came back into top form this spring. In Rome, he won the tournament, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6(5). The No. 1 has won 38 ATP Masters 1000s. He has also won 20 Grand Slams. He has had a tough year, but now, he is finally in the zone.

“Two days ago I played great. I have been building my form for the past couple of weeks and I knew that my best shape on clay usually comes around Rome, so it could not be better going into Roland Garros,” Djokovic said. Djokovic knew his form was improving through the final and, gradually, he exploited Tsitsipas’s backhand.

“I always believed that I could come back and win the match, and I stayed there even though a lot of things were against me in terms of how I felt on the court. Game-wise, physically I was just far from my best,” Djokovic said. “So, of course, in those types of conditions and circumstances, then you have to really work two times more than you normally would. I played a clay court specialist. I have to try to be optimistic and build, to Roland Garros and where I want to peak.”

With him being sidelined though the early part of 2022 due to not having been vaccinated for COVID-19, he practiced all the time. But, without match play the 34-years old gets irritated and frustrated. When he is on court, he can be lethal and so steady. But now he is in a better space and he is driving on the train.

His backhand might be the best ever, when he is almost perfect cross-court and also down the line, too. He can smack his very good forehand, and he can return quite deep. His eyes can focus, and he can be very thoughtful.

Djokovic is peaking, and at Roland Garros, he has a shot to win the tournament, assuming whether Rafa Nadal will be healthy. If they advance, the two legends will meet in the quarterfinals. The Spaniard stopped playing after Rome. He has won 13 Grand Slams at the French Open, and he has been clearly the best player ever in Paris, but if his legs or his sore back seize up, he might not be able to win it for the millionth time.

Another Spaniard, the 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, is winning almost everything. He is so fast, he can bash the ball, and he can hit some amazing drop shots. He can sprint, and he smiles when he hits a winner. However, even though he won Barcelona and Madrid, he has yet to dominate the three-out-of-five set matches. He will, one way or another, but can he do it next week? Maybe in the first week, but in the second week? Possibly as long as he can be more consistent.

Here are a few players who can reach the second week including Tsitsipas, Taylor Fritz, Denis Shapovalov, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and of course, Daniil Medvedev, who just returned to action.

The Italian final: Iga Świątek versus Ons Jabeur

Iga Świątek
Mal Taam/MALTphoto



Iga Świątek goes into the Rome final with 27 wins in a row. She is not only No.1, but now on the clay, she is crushing people day after day. Last year, who would have thought that she became not only very fast, but smarter. She can belt her forehands and her backhand, she can mix it up, and she can also return like a ghost.

In the semis in Italy, she totally crushed Aryna Sabalenka. She wiped her out 6-2, 6-1.

Świątek has won just one Grand Slam, at the 2020 Roland Garros, but she is now tied with Serena Williams, who also had 27 wins in a row. Świątek is not quite there — a long shot— because Martina Navratilova had 74 wins in a row back in 1984.

Who would have guessed that at the start of the year? Świątek is a little bit shocked. She has lost three matches in January and early February, against the now retired No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Danielle Collins and Jelena Ostapenko. After that, she began to streak.

“I needed time to learn how to do that properly, how to use the streak or ranking to put pressure on my opponents. I feel like I’ve done that pretty well last season and this season at the beginning, just learning how to use it in a positive way,” Świątek said. “Last year when I had better ranking, it felt like it’s something that’s pressuring me down. This time it’s totally different. Also having Tomasz [Wiktorowski, a coach who worked Aga Radwanska for many years], who is so experienced, who has been working with top players already, it’s also really helpful. I feel like I can lean on them in that matter. I just wasn’t analyzing that much as I did in previous seasons, so it also helped.”

In the final, the rising Jabeur has finally improved a lot. The 27-year-old has been pretty decent, but she has been downcast. She does have a lot of shots, and she can run for a long time, but when she has a chance to bang it, she can become confused.

Then in April, she switched her approach and became so much more confident. She did more grinding, which helped her win in Madrid.
 
“Honestly I feel like I was playing better the other matches. Maybe today wasn’t the best,” Jabeur said. “Probably another test for me mentally, for sure. But to back up the performance from Madrid, it’s very important for me. It’s one of the reasons why I’m here, why I want to continue showing myself on the court. It’s part of maybe the journey. I told you I want to win a Grand Slam, so maybe I have to go through this to be able to win one Grand Slam. For now I’m doing it right. Different test from each match. Hopefully I can still continue.”

Świątek and Jabeur have played three times, with the Tunisian winning two times, and the Pole winning once.

Novak Djokovic & Serena Williams: ‘It’s just really cat-and-mouse’

Serena Williams

Serena Williams is 39-years-old, and soon enough, she will retire, possibly at the end off 2021. She has a young child, and she wants to be with her daughter all the time. That is reality, and that is a good thing, but at the same time, she wants to win one more Grand Slam.

In Rome, she lost in the first round against Nadia Podoroska. So now, if she wants to go deep at Roland Garros, she has to compete a lot in the next two weeks. She has to be super hard.

“That’s always like a little struggle in the first two matches, and then I’m raring to go. I was struggling a little bit, and just final shots,” Serena said. “I had a lot of opportunities to win, final shots and just kind of missing those. Overall, it was good for me to play such a clay court player, but it’s a little frustrating. But it’s all right. It is what it is. I’m not playing as many matches. I’m just doing a lot of training. So it’s actually really good to get out and to play some matches.”

Williams has decided to play next week at the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma. It is all about getting in more matches.

Novak Djokovic has a won a huge amount on hardcourts and grass, and also, the clay, too, except when he has to face against Rafa Nadal, who is the best on the dirt ever.

But Djokovic is close, because maybe he doesn’t totally love clay, but he improved over the past 15 years. He is excellent, and he is thoughtful on court. He studie, and rethinks what he can do. He is very thoughtful.

“Well, we all know the clay is a slower surface in the sport. As much it requires more physical energy from a player, but also I think mental and emotional energy as well,” Djokovic explained. “You have to train on clay more than any other surface really to get yourself comfortable playing on it. It is also a very demanding surface in terms of tactics, in terms of just constructing the point. Sometimes it’s just really cat-and-mouse type of play where you have to fight for a better position on the court, sometimes use the shots that you would not normally use on other surface, like this looping forehand or backhand, trying to get back in play, build your position. It is the surface that probably requires from a player to defend better than on any other surface.”

Djokovic rarely gets tired. Even when during at the Slams, he can play for many hours. He is in great shape, but once in a while, he can be feel the effects of the demands of clay.
 
“I haven’t played a lot at all, so I don’t feel physically exhausted or worn out. I don’t think that’s going to be a case for me coming to Paris. I’m excited to come to [Roland Garros]. That’s obviously the biggest goal of my clay court season,” he said.
 
NOTES
The 17-year-old Coco Gauff is getting better and better. She stunned Aryna Sabalenka, who was on a streak. Sabalenka was tired and she missed a lot of balls. But Gauff rose up and smashed the ball.

“I guess a 10 out of 10. I think I played pretty well the whole match. She’s not an easy opponent,” Gauff said. “Sometimes you’re always on defense, so sometimes you just have to scramble a little bit. I played smart.”

On the next day No. 1 Ash Barty retires, up 6-4, 2-1 against Gauff. She is hurt. There are so many injuries, with the women and the men…

There are a few people wo played the Australian Open, who after February, they have to travel all the way through November. That can be very hard, not to see with your parents, your terrific friends. Mentally, it can be upsetting.

John Millman said, “I don’t want it to come across as a bit of a sob story.

“For me really it’s impossible to come home midseason. I knew going away, and probably that’s a reflection of probably my poor form to start off the season was when I went away. I was probably a bit depressed because I knew that I was going away for like 10 or 11 months. I was a bit depressed. I can’t stress the mental side of it, but I’m in a much better place now and have come to terms with a 10-and-a-half month trip.”

It was another big win by American Reilly Opelka, who eliminated Federico Delbonis in the quarters 7-5, 7-6(2). His semifinal opponent was Nadal and predictably, the Spaniard knocked him out 6-4, 6-4. “Clay is not really my thing. [It is] not much of an American thing. Probably just a fluke, but I’ll run with it.”

Report card: top five women in Rome

Here are the women with the best results last week in Rome.

Elena Svitolina A+
In Rome, in 2017, Svitolina finally rose, winning the tournament. Two weeks later in Paris, she backed off, was nervous and she lost early. But she never stopped trying. In 2018, last week, she played brilliantly. She is so quick, so powerful, and she is very smart. She won the event fairly easily, crushing Simona Halep in the final. Now, once again, she has a legitimate chance to win a Grand Slam at Roland Garros. But there will be pressure, serious pressure …

Simona Halep A
Props to beating Maria Sharapova in the semis. She could have folded but she did not, she ripped her shots and she jumped on it. Unfortunately, in the final, Halep was exhausted. Her legs were very heavy, and she couldn’t run fast enough against Svitolina. Still, the No. 1 Halep was more than respectable, so for the “millionth” time, she has a shot to win her first Grand Slam. If she remains focused …  

Maria Sharapova B+
Even though Sharapova lost in the semis against Halep, she played substantially better last week. Finally. She took a breath, she hustled, she was patient when she could. Yes, she can be erratic and still, a little off. She won Roland Garros twice. So, when she arrives in Paris, she may not win, but she will push, hard. There, her confidence will return. 

Anett Kontaveit B+
Out of almost nowhere, Kontaveit reached the semis, upsetting CoCo Vandeweghe, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Venus Williams, and Caro Wozniacki before losing to Svitolina. On clay, Kontaveit looks pretty darn good. So, at RG in Paris, she could be a real factor.

Jelena Ostapenko B
Believe it or not, the 2017 Roland Garros champion is getting better. She has had a tough year, but she did reach the final in Miami on hardcourts. In Rome last week, she did beat Jo Konta, and then, went down against Sharapova 7-5 in the third. Ostapenko was very close to that win. While the 20-year-old person can blast the ball from both wings, she has to be a little more comfortable with staying in longer rallies. She did win Paris last year, smoking the ball, so maybe she can do it again.

Report card: top five men in Rome

Here are the men with the best results last week in Rome.

Rafa Nadal A+
The Spaniard can be so-so at times, and he knows that, and he says that, even if we don’t always believe him. On clay, when he is on top of his game, he is control 95 percent of the time. When he was close to losing the final to Alexander Zverev, he stepped up, smacked his forehand and weaker backhand, and he found his range. He is super smart and driven. Nadal will come into Roland Garros this week and be a serious favored to win it again: that would be 11 times. Wow!

Alexander Zverev A-
The German was pretty close to winning Rome, moving forward, pounding his backhand and serving big. The 21-year-old has had a terrific three weeks, beating 13 different players, knocking down a few of the best. But as Zverev has said, he was so close to put down Nadal for the first time but coulnd’t make it happen at the end of the match. With a break in the third, he lost his fire. Can he win in Paris? That is unsure.

Novak Djokovic B+
At least the former No. 1 reached the semis. While he lost against Nadal, he was finally a little bit confident and focused. He may not love clay, but he is a very good player from top to bottom. As long as he stays healthy, he will return to the top 10, then into the top 5, but after that, to win a Grand Slam this year? The jury is out.

Marin Cilic B+
The Croat had a very good week in Rome. Yes, he didn’t win, but at least he hustled and changed his tactics. Reaching the semis on clay makes Cilic smile.

Kei Nishikori B
The Japanese also had a good week, not retiring, staying in there. He never gave up. He and Djokovic had some fun rallies, and coming up to Roland Garros, I am sure they will be practicing for many hours.

Sloane Stephens finds her footing on clay but falls to Garcia


American Sloane Stephens said this week that she understands how to play better on clay now. She used to get frustrated at times, but now she is learning what she needs to succeed. However, she has to be more tolerant. On Wednesday in Rome, she knocked down Kaia Kanepi 6-0 5-7 6-4.

But, she couldn’t extend the magic against Caroline Garcia, losing 6-1 7-6(7). Garcia has improved huge amount over the past year — in the singles, that is. Both of them can sit back and rally for ages. They are both very accurate, rarely missing some easy shots. Eventually, however, they can swing hard and try to kiss the lines. This match can go for two and half hours. At the end, whomever is willing to go for it and not push the balls back, she will take it, with Stephens or Garcia.
 
Simona Halep smoked Naomi Osaka pretty quickly and then got a walkover when Madison Keys pulled out. That will keep her atop the WTA rankings.

Venus Williams overcame Elena Vesnina 6-2 4-6 7-5, as the Russian faltered in the last games. But Anett Kontaviet took down Venus 6-2 7-6(3) in the third round. Kontaviet aslo knocked Venus out of Madrid last week.

The amazing thing is for the first time, or very rarely, over the past 20 years, that Venus decided she could play doubles without Serena. Unfortunately, she picked Keys, who withdrew from singles and doubles, citing a rib injury.

On the rise is Maria Sharapova, who dispatched Gavrilova in straight sets. There was no doubt that Sharapova would find her form. Now, the question is can she get back into the mix of the top 5. If Sharapova wins a few more matches, she will be in the top 32, which will help at Roland Garros.

Here is a marathon when Daria Gavrilova took out Garbine Muguruza 5-7 6-2 7-6(6). Muguruza had a few match points and she couldn’t convert. She rarely chokes, and Gavrilova kept pushing her. I am just not sure that the former RG champ Muguruza can take the Paris title again.

Two other notable matches with the guys on Wednesday: Kei Nishikori beat Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(4) 5-7 6-4 in nearly three hours. Good for Nishikori, staying in there, going backhand versus backhand, hitting it hard down the line. Nishikori continued to show he is improving when healthy, pummeling Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-1 6-2 in the third round.
 
Props to Fabio Fognini, who out-hit Dominic Thiem and then sailing through Peter Gojowczyk. Next up is Rafa Nadal who had no problem with Canada’s newest top player Denis Shapovalov. They have had some classic matches over the years, and they might do that again.

Zverev grabs Madrid; Nadal hopes to rebound in Rome

What an incredible week for Alexandra Zverev, who won Madrid, hands down. In the final, he out hit Dominic Thiem in straight sets. In the past two weeks, he has been not only more patient, but he had a good idea of where the balls are coming from and is setting up his replies better. Everything was working in Spain, as he smacked his first serves and he leapt on top of his forehand and backhand. He kept is focus and then went for big shots.

Zverev has won three ATP 1000 Masters Series crowns. That means that he is right there to become No. 1 pretty soon. Not immediately, but soon enough, assuming that he stays healthy and he continues to improve.

Last year, Zverev won Rome. This week, he will be there again. Can he actually grab it once again? Possibly, but remember that last week, Rafa Nadal actually lost, going down against Thiem. Nadal was riding a record 50-set winning streak on the dirt. But eventually, he played against another excellent player — like Thiem — and he was off a little bit. That’s all it took.

The good thing for Nadal is that he had a few days to rest. He won Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and then he went to Madrid. That is a lot of matches. We would imagine that he isn’t injured, so when he comes to Rome, he will be itching to dominate again. Nadal has won Rome seven times. That is a tremendous amount. Because of that, even though Zverev just won Madrid, Nadal is the favorite. However, with Zverev rising quickly, once again, the Spaniard Nadal has to show him that he can contain him. 

On Sunday in Rome, three Americans won: Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson, who beat Stan Wawrinka. That’s a fine win by Johnson.

Wawrinka just returned from a run of limited play, competing in only his fifth tournament this year. It is admirable that the three-time major champion Wawrinka didn’t retire, because he pulled out a few times this season because he wanted to play so badly, but his body has failed. Hopefully, he feels 100 percent. Just wait until he gets to Roland Garros, he loves that tournament.


Arrivederci Roberta!
Among the women, played her last WTA match in her country’s capital, Rome. She fell to Aleksandra Krunic in the first round  The Italian has always fought, she liked to mix it up and spin it. The 35-year-old did reach a Grand Slam final, at the US Open, and she had a fantastic career. She won’t go very far this week, but still, she will show them off.

Another Italian is going to retire this year as Francesca Schiavone is 37 years old and it is time to wave goodbye. She said he’s aiming for the end of the year. But for sure, she put together some fantastic matches over the past 20 years, especially at Roland Garros eight years ago, when she won it. She played lights out.

Sloane Stephens will play at night. She didn’t play great last week. It is time to dig down and commit to playing tough. … The same goes with CoCo Vandeweghe, who came very close to winning Stuttgart, but she couldn’t do it. Now she will attempt to do shine in Rome. She has to face Anett Kontaveit, who is pretty young, but she is very talented. Another toss up. … American Danielle Collins qualified, and she will face Camila Giorgi in the first round on Monday. I still cannot believe that she is the top 50 now. Last year, she was out of the top 100. She is very committed.

Zverev’s Amazing Year Continues in Montreal

Source: Coupe Rogers presented by Banque Nationale via Facebook.

Alexander Zverev has stormed up to a career-high No. 6 ranking after defeating Roger Federer in the final of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Federer was struggling with fitness, but this takes nothing away from a dominating 6-3 6-4 victory by the young German who had saved match point in the second round against Richard Gasquet. This mental fortitude highlights the credentials of a player who has long been tipped to win a Grand Slam.

This trajectory seemed predestined for Zverev as soon as he emerged on the ATP World Tour, heralded as a future Slam champion in a short space of time. Zverev has continued along this trajectory without any major hiccups to change the popular opinion formulated when he burst onto the scene. In fact, the fitness troubles of the sport’s top players could accelerate Zverev’s journey to a Grand Slam title.

Zverev’s meteoric rise is reflected in the tennis betting at bet365, where the young German can be found at odds of +1200 to claim the US Open in September. This places him as fourth favourite in the current standings, and that situation may well change over the next couple of weeks. Andy Murray’s fitness is currently unproven, while the degree of Federer’s physical discomfort in Montreal is yet to be established. That would leave Rafael Nadal as favourite, and the Spaniard is never the same proposition on hard courts as he is on the clay. 

Federer’s defeat to Zverev was only his third loss of the year. Source: Coupe Rogers presentee par Banque Nationale via Facebook.

With expectation comes pressure, and perhaps the biggest question mark hanging over Zverev’s potential is that he is yet to prove himself in the high-pressure situation of a Grand Slam. There were high hopes of the German at Roland Garros, given his propensity to handle all surfaces with aplomb, but he fell to the sporadically dangerous Fernando Verdasco in the first round. Zverev fared better at Wimbledon, delivering his strongest Slam performance in a round-of-sixteen defeat to Milos Raonic.

Zverev should probably have prevailed in that match but was defeated over five sets. If Zverev can deliver his peak level across a best-of-five match, then there is little to suggest that he is not on the pathway to Slam success. Previous US Open winner Marin Cilic will be dangerous at the US Open if fully fit, but otherwise, the tournament promises to be extremely open.

The young German is undeniably the form player and therefore has to be considered a worthy contender. A look at the six ATP Masters 1000 tournaments so far in this calendar year substantiates that claim. Federer triumphed in Indian Wells and Miami before Nadal excelled on the clay of Monte Carlo and Madrid. The clay tournament in Rome was won by Zverev, a stunning victory that has now been joined by the aforementioned glory at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. 

That victory in Rome came after Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic in the final in straight sets, and Zverev doled out the same treatment to Federer. Some talented players lack the armoury to take down the best and therefore lurk in the lower position of the top ten for much of their career. Zverev has all the weapons to take down the best, and the US Open may be coming at the perfect time for a player in terrific form. 


Jennifer Carson is a recent sports journalism graduate and an avid follower of squash, tennis and lacrosse. She has previously written for publications including the Mansfield and Ashfield Chad and the Derby Telegraph.

Svitolina: ‘The mental part is also a very stable’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, SATURDAY, AUGUST 11: Elina Svitolina is already pretty close to winning a major. But first, she has to really believe in herself. The Ukrainian has been darn good this season, she is already No. 5, winning Rome, Istanbul, Dubai and Taipei City. In Dubai, she took out Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Guess what? They will clash on Sunday, an extremely important event here at the Canadian Open.

In this event, Svitolina has beaten two terrific players here, who had great Wimbledon results: Garbine Muguruza and Venus Williams.  On Saturday, Svitolina crushed Simona Halep 6-1 6-1. She was strong, and Halep was exhausted.

At Roland Garros, Svitolina thought she could go very deep and actually win it. She won the quarterfinal first set against Halep, thought she could nail it during the second set and move ahead, but she stopped, and Halep out-though her, winning 3-6 7-6(6) 6-0. She cried then. But, on Saturday, she locked in, showed her power and was ready to be patient.

“In Paris it was very difficult to have that loss, but I think it also was the experience,” Svitolina said. “So that’s why, from the first point today ‘til the last point, I was very focused and I was just 100 percent on every ball. I just learned. I learned from that experience that you need to play until the last point and, you know, just one point at a time. There will be nerves, but that’s how you need to try to manage them and to put them in the right direction. You know, to don’t push the ball, go for the shots and move your feet quickly. Because every player is different, but you need to know what happens with you when you are very stressed. So I try to learn this from the experience.”

Svitolina is very rugged, has a fast but varied serve. She can mix it up and bash it. Last year, she was pretty decent, but the 22-year-old needed to change a couple things and become substantial better. Her forehand, her backhand and the lob are forceful.  

“I’m more consistent with my game. With the mental part is also a very stable,” she said. “Yeah, it’s just the small things. I’m 22 years old, so I’m always changing. And I see some things differently than, one year ago, two years ago.So just something clicked together and it’s working.”

The same goes for Wozniacki, who has now reached six final tournaments this season. Without a doubt, she has been super consistent, but when she reaches the final, she gets nervous, and then she panics. Is she the favorite here on Sunday? It is hard to say. Svitolina beat her in February, but the 27-year-old Wozniacki has been on the WTA Tour for 10 years. That is a very long time. She knows all the other players, she knows exactly what she has to do, but in the finals, she becomes too conservative.

This time, she cannot, or Svitolina can blast her and destroy her forehand. Caro is so quick, she knocks it back all the time. Her backhand is so consistent, especially crosscourt. His first serve is much better now, and occasionally, she puts away the volleys.

At the press conference, a journalist asked: “It’s your sixth final of the year and you’re still looking for your first win. Does that weigh on your mind at all?”

Caro said, “No, not unless I get asked about it (with a laughter.) So I put myself in great positions and I’m going to try and make the most of it.”

Pick ’em, May 17, Rome: Djokovic vs. Federer. Both want it bad, will be very close

 

nadal_djokovic rg 13 _seitz

1-Novak Djokovic vs. 2-Roger Federer

Here we go, their 39th meeting. Long enough people? It’s an intense rivalry, and extremely complicated between both sides. In the last 10 meetings, they have split 5-5, with Federer winning the Dubai final in February and Djokovic grabbing Indian Wells in the final. The 33-year-old Federer is 20-18 head to head over the 27-year-old Djokovic and clearly, it has been super close. It’s all about quality, not just pushing the ball around and merely hoping.

Interesting, they have only played each other seven matches on clay, the last time coming in 2014 Monte Carlo, won by the Swiss. The biggest clash was in 2011, when Djokovic hadn’t lost during the season and had reached the semifinal of Roland Garros, on a 41-win streak. The Serbian believed that he could out-hit Federer there and perhaps he would go onto the final against Rafa Nadal, but he could not, when Roger put on a tremendous variety and won 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5).

Djokovic was able to get revenge the next year in Paris, beating Federer 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, a very clean victory. However, Djokovic was unable to win at Roland Garros again, falling to Nadal — again.

Federer has been able to snare a French Open title in 2009, but somewhat amazingly, he has never won Italy before. Djokovic has won Rome three times, including last year.

He and Federer did play once in Italy in 2012, with Djokovic coming through 6-2, 7-6(4). They have played so many times it seems like they are clashing every day.

But this is 2015 and once again, Djokovic is on red-hot fire. Even when he is struggling, he is still winning, because his strokes are so deep and he kisses the lines time and time again. Yes, he can lose points, he can be broken, he could miss too many returns and floated his forehands way long. But still, he digs in, he is changing his direction and purpose. He figured it out.

However, beating Federer is an entirely different matter. Yes, the Swiss has been up and down this year, very good and very so-so. He fell early against Nick Kyrgios in Madrid in a difficult contest but he has played extremely well this week, dominating his first serve, slicing his backhand wickedly and changing his forehand all the time. He essentially crushed Stan Wawrinka in the semis on Saturday, dancing around near the net, blasting his returns and daring him to out-hit his forehand.

Djokovic is rock solid. There is no way to hide. On hard courts and grass, it’s possible to go into the net frequently but that is very difficult on a slow clay surface. Therefore, Federer has to be very patient and wait for the right shots and when the balls are short, it’s time to attack.

The Serbian will try to beat up Federer’s one-handed backhand, hoping to raise the balls way up high where the Swiss cannot crush it when it’s up above his head. Djokovic was very efficient in beating David Ferrer, as he cleaned up any mistakes. Federer and Djokovic will be very close once again, but someone has to win: Djokovic will grab an early break in the third set it and win the title, his fourth time in Rome.