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Another Rome success boosts Novak Djokovic’s hopes ahead of French Open

Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning a sixth Italian Open title (Alessandra Tarantino/AP/PA)
Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning a sixth Italian Open title (Alessandra Tarantino/AP/PA)

Novak Djokovic sealed his sixth Italian Open title with a 6-0 7-5 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday and insisted he could not have asked for a better lead up to Roland Garros.

The Serbian has endured a tumultuous 2022, being deported from Australia in January to miss the first grand slam of the year before his decision to remain unvaccinated contributed towards a number of tournaments being skipped due to entry restrictions imposed by various countries.

Most nations are now relaxing rules and Djokovic will resume his quest for major number 21 later this month when he competes in the French Open and he will head there in form after a successful week in Rome, where he failed to drop a set.

“To some extent it’s a relief because after everything that happened at the beginning of the year, it was important for me to win a big title, especially with Grand Slams coming up where obviously I want to play my best,” the world number one told a press conference.

“I could not ask for a better lead-up to Roland Garros really. Serbian Open finals, really working my way through the tournament physically. Then Madrid (Open), better performances, but still maybe not as sharp in those decisive moments. And here everything kind of came together and clicked.

“I’m going to Paris with definitely confidence and good feelings about my chances there.”

Djokovic’s failure to compete at the Australia Open and the subsequent furore which followed Down Under made headlines across the globe.

The 20-time grand slam champion is eager to draw a line under the whole saga ahead of this month’s French Open.

Speaking after his one hour and 37 minute battle with Tsitsipas, Djokovic added: “It’s something that I never faced before, so that amount of pressure and everything that I was feeling in the first few months of the year, as much as I’ve felt pressure in my life and my career, that was something really on a whole different level.

“But I feel it’s already behind me. I feel great on the court. Mentally as well. I’m fresh. I’m sharp. Yeah, it’s just something that happened in the past.”

After producing a vintage opening set in Rome, Djokovic was 5-2 down in the second before he roared back to triumph and become the oldest Italian Open winner at the age of 34.

It proved to be a family double after Djokovic’s seven-year-old son also won his first tournament on Sunday.

“Well, the journey started successful. My son won the tournament today. I just received that news. A sunshine double today,” the Italian Open winner revealed.

“If he wants to embark on this journey, I guess I have to embark with him, too. Of course, I’ll be thrilled if he plays tennis.”

Earlier in the day, Iga Swiatek secured a fifth straight title by beating Ons Jabeur to successfully defend her Italian Open crown.

The 20-year-old Pole has been unstoppable since taking over as world number one from Ashleigh Barty, with her last defeat coming in Dubai back in February.

Swiatek did not drop a set in Rome and eased to a 6-2 6-2 victory over ninth seed Jabeur for her 28th consecutive win ahead of the French Open, where she will be an overwhelming favourite to claim a second grand slam title.

Jabeur was herself on an 11-match winning run having won her biggest title in Madrid last week but had negotiated a significantly more troublesome path in making it to the final at the Foro Italico.

Swiatek, who had lost her last two meetings with Jabeur, stamped her authority on the match early on and looked in total control at a set and 4-0 up.

Jabeur attempted a fightback, winning two games in a row, but Swiatek withstood intense pressure to hold in the seventh game and clinched her first match point soon after.

“I’m going to try to do step by step, just think of the next match as I did on these tournaments,” she said of the French Open.

“I already know that I did some great stuff this season, so I feel like I can just play freely and not think I have to win some tournaments or I have to win some matches.”

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