Sunday, June 26, 2022

Djokovic admits ‘relief’ as he boosts French Open hopes with Rome win

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Novak Djokovic sealed his sixth Italian Open title with a 6-0, 7-5 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday, insisting he could not have asked for a better lead over Roland Garros.

The Serb has endured a turbulent 2022 and was expelled from Australia in January to miss the first Grand Slam of the year before his decision to remain unvaccinated contributed to a number of tournaments being missed due to entry restrictions from various countries .

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

“In a way 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 when there are Grand Slams where I obviously want to do my best,” he said World number one said at a press conference.

“I really couldn’t ask for better preparation for Roland Garros. Serbian Open final, physically worked my way through the tournament. Then Madrid (Open), better performances but maybe still not as sharp in those crucial moments. And here everything somehow fit and clicked.

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

Djokovic’s failure at the Australia Open and the subsequent excitement that ensued Down Under made headlines around the world.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion is keen to draw a line under the whole saga ahead of this month’s French Open.

After his hour-long and 37-minute fight with Tsitsipas, Djokovic added: “It’s something I’ve never faced before, so so much pressure and everything I’ve felt in the first few months of the year, as much as I have Feeling pressure in my life and career was something else entirely.

“But I feel like it’s already over. I feel great on the pitch. Also mentally. i am fresh I am hot. Yeah, it’s just something that happened in the past.”

After producing a vintage opening set in Rome, Djokovic trailed 2-5 in the second before roaring back to triumph and becoming 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 successfully. My son won the tournament today. I just received this message. A sunshine double today,” revealed the Italian Open winner.

“If he wants to embark on this journey, I guess I have to go with him too. Of course I’m happy when 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 world number one from Ashleigh Barty. Their last defeat was in Dubai in February.

Swiatek didn’t lose a set in Rome, delivering a 6-2, 6-2 win over ninth-seeded Jabeur for her 28th straight win ahead of the French Open, where she’s an overwhelming favorite to a second Grand Slam title will be.

Jabeur was on an 11-game winning streak herself, having won her biggest title in Madrid last week but embarked on a much more difficult path to make it to the final at the Foro Italico.

Swiatek, who lost her last two encounters with Jabeur, imposed her authority on the match early on and looked in total control on a set and a 4-0 lead.

Jabeur attempted a comeback, winning two games in a row, but Swiatek withstood intense pressure to hold in game seven and clinched her first match point shortly after.

“I’ll try to take it step by step, just think about the next game like I did in these tournaments,” she said of the French Open.

“I already know I’ve done some great stuff this season, so I feel like I can just play freely and don’t think I need to win some tournaments or win some games.”

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