Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press
ROME — Novak Djokovic lifted his first trophy of the campaign at the Italian Tennis Open on Sunday and showed he’s back at the top of his game just a week before the start of the French Open.
After missing much of the season due to his coronavirus vaccination status, Djokovic defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6 (5) in the final.
Djokovic, who did not concede a single set this week, at the same time obtained his sixth career title on Roman clay.
“I have been working on my physical condition in recent weeks, admitted Djokovic. Couldn’t be a better time to tackle the French Open.
“It’s a perfect scenario,” he added, certain of himself.
On the women’s side, Iga Swiatek crushed Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-2 to successfully defend her Italian Open title, extending her winning streak to 28.
Djokovic took just half an hour to claim the first set, during which Tsitsipas reached such a level of frustration that he smashed his racquet against his bag during a change of ends.
After trailing quickly in the second set, the Serbian upped his game as his opponent served for the set at 5-3.
The ‘Djoker’ first unleashed a winning forehand cross that landed on the demarcation line, then, on the next point, he forced the Greek, fifth racket in the world, to move from one end to the other. other side of the court before letting him attempt a drop shot that ended up in the net. Djokovic celebrated by raising his fist several times to the sky, under the chants of the crowd who chanted: “NO-LE, NO-LE!”
Finally, when Tsitsipas’ backhand missed on the world No. 1’s first match point, Djokovic simply raised his arms and smiled at the crowd.
Djokovic, who was expelled from Australia due to his vaccination status shortly before the start of the Australian Open, had not won a tournament since his triumph at the Paris Masters in November 2021.
The holder of 20 career Grand Slam titles had reached the final of the Serbian Open, ahead of his family, last month. He also lost to Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals of the Madrid Open last week.
“This year was special. With everything that happened in Australia, it took me a long time, Djokovic said. But I’m back in great shape. I am fired up for Paris.”
It was the Serbian’s 12th final at the ‘Foro Italico’.
“This land has always been very, very special, recognized the main interested party. He gives me a lot of joy, especially when I need positive vibes. Every time I got here a little flat, this city found a way to reinvigorate me.”
For her part, Swiatek surprised everyone by winning the title at Roland-Garros in 2020, when she was ranked 54th in the world. The 20-year-old Pole will be the favorite and will be seeking a second career title on Parisian clay from next Sunday.
“I’m aware of what I’ve accomplished already this season, so I feel like I can play without pressure,” Swiatek said. Obviously, the expectations will be higher, but I’ve never had a hard time detaching myself from it and not worrying about it. Plus, I get experience that way.”
Swiatek has won five consecutive titles since the start of his winning streak.
“It’s pretty incredible right now, with all these wins,” she admitted.
Jabeur herself was on an 11-win streak after notably triumphing last week at the Madrid Open. The Tunisian’s repertoire of drop shots and spin on the ball has never been up to par with Swiatek, a mobile player who possesses unparalleled precision in forehands.
“I did everything so that she had to reach the corners of the court, told Jabeur. But she was ready for it.”
The last player to win more consecutive matches was Belgium’s Justine Henin, with 32, between 2007 and 2008. The record streak belongs to Martina Navratilova, who won 74 in a row in 1984.
In women’s doubles, Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski and her Mexican playing partner Giuliana Olmos, the tournament’s second seeds, lost 1-6, 6-4 and 10-7 to Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Veronika Kudermetova in the final .
– With The Canadian Press