Djokovic beats Federer to win Rome Masters
Top seed Novak Djokovic confirmed his status as the favourite for the French Tennis Open with a straight sets win over the second seed Roger Federer in the final at the Italian Open.
It finished 6-4 6-3 and it took the Serbian world number one 76 minutes to complete the task.
On the way to his fourth Roman crown, the 27-year-old faced only one break point during the match. That was at 4-4 in the first set.
He won Federer's first service game in the second set to go 2-0 up and then confirmed the break to lead 3-0. Though the 33-year-old Swiss tried to rally, Djokovic held firm to close out. He will proceed to the French Open which
starts on 24 May in Paris as the supreme force in men's tennis. He has won five championships this year including his fifth Australian Open and the Masters events in Indian Wells, Miami and Monte Carlo Masters.
Rome was his 24th win at a Masters competition - considered the second most prestigious event on the circuit after the grand slam tournaments at the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
He is now second on the Masters all time winners list behind Rafael Nadal and one ahead of Federer.
Inevitably, after the match on Sunday afternoon at the Foro Italico, both Djokovic and Federer were asked about the form of Nadal, who is the defending champion at the French Open.
The 28-year-old Spaniard will go into the tournament without having won a title on clay. That's never happened since he claimed the first of his nine French Opens in 2005.
"I think to be honest it surprised everybody considering his record on clay courts over the years," said Djokovic.
"But he's human as well and does have his periods where he's not confident or not winning matches.
"Clay is the surface that always allowed him to regain his confidence if he was losing more on hard courts than clay courts. Whenever he would get to the clay season he would win matches and then feel like he's back on the right path.
"This year is quite different and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back for Roland Garros, the most successful tournament he has ever played in his career."
Djokovic is seeking his first Roland Garros crown.
If he were to hold aloft the Coupe des Mousquetaires on 7 June, he would join a select group of men who have won at all four grand slam venues since 1968 - the year when professional players were allowed to take part in such tournaments. Nadal and Federer are already in that pantheon along with Andre Agassi and Rod Laver.
Nadal has thwarted Djokovic on two occasions from entering their clique. Last year's final and the 2012 showdown. Few commentators believe Nadal will get to that stage of the tournament this year.
Eight days ago Andy Murray crushed Nadal 6-3 6-2 to win the Madrid Masters and in the Rome quarter-final Stan Wawrinka turned over the Spaniard in straight sets.
That defeat to Wawrinka means Nadal will not be among the top four seeds at the French Open when the draw is announced.
Federer - beaten four times by Nadal in a French Open final - says his nemesis will still be a significant force at the tournament.
"It seems that he's doing just fine and, regardless of what anybody says to me, he is the favourite for the French Open," said Federer. .
"You cannot take away the last 10 years. It's going to be the best of five sets, we know how tough Rafa is physically and mentally. He is the favourite still, at least to me."
In three weeks reports of Nadal's decline may prove to be greatly exaggerated. And the Spaniard might once again be smiling with a gleaming trophy during the victor's photocall before the world's press in front of the Eiffel Tower.
All 128 players going into the first round will have their eyes on such a parade. Only a handful have a realistic chance to reach that goal.
Djokovic is among that group. But the circuit's top dog clearly harbours fears.
"I've never won against him at Roland Garros, so if I get the chance to play somebody else it would be better, honestly!"
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