Novak Djokovic won his first Clay Masters 1000 title in Rome in 2008. The Serb returned to the Foro Italico a year later and reached the semifinals. The world’s best players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, stood between Novak and his second Rome crown.
The Serb passed the first test in the semifinals with a 4: 6, 6: 3, 6: 3 triumph over Roger Federer. Novak defeated Roger after two hours and 11 minutes, dropping the opener and trailing 3-1 in sets two and three before emerging at the front to decide the clash with Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic beat Federer for a fourth time and first time on clay, defending eight of 11 break chances and earning five breaks to cross the finish line first. Federer could have opened a 6-4, 3-0 lead and got closer to the finish line.
However, he missed break chances in the third game of that second set before the rain sent them off for 70 minutes. Djokovic played with more energy when they returned, taking the set in style to force a deciding set.
The Serb admitted it would have been difficult to catch Roger if he had taken a 6-4, 3-0 lead. Novak said he played with more energy and stamina when they returned to the pitch. Djokovic fended off a break chance at 1-3 as they resumed action, breaking back to secure the result at 3-3.
Novak Djokovic turned the tables on Roger Federer in Rome in 2009.
The Swiss sprayed another backhand error in game eight, falling 3-5 behind and allowing the Serb to stage an impressive comeback and seal the set with a hold at love.
Federer lost five games in a row and had to start over in the decider. He found his game again and produced two comfortable holds early in the last set. Roger broke Novak in game four at 15 to open a 3-1 gap thanks to a wild forehand from the Serb.
In a pivotal moment, Djokovic broke back with a forehand crosscourt winner in game five and forced Federer’s error in the next to secure the result 3-3. With momentum on his side, Novak stole the rival’s serve again in game seven, holding at 15 in the next.
The defending champion sealed the deal with his fifth break in game nine when Roger placed a backhand wide and advanced to his ninth Masters 1000 final on 21. “The third game of the second set before the rain was critical.
Everyone will say that the rain helped me and it’s a fact that I played a lot better afterwards. When we came back, I moved better, forcing Roger to always play an extra ball. He could have broken me for the second time and it would have been much more difficult to make a comeback.
Despite losing it, I played well in the opener and spoiled everything with late unforced errors. Roger’s serve worked well before the rain and he had ups and downs when we came back. He started to feel the pressure when I came back well and sent a lot of balls back,” said Novak Djokovic.