Novak Djokovic capped a historic week on Sunday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he overcame Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6(5) to capture a record-extending 38th ATP Masters 1000 crown.
The Serbian became the fifth man in the Open Era to earn 1,000 match wins when he defeated Casper Ruud in the semi-finals and he backed that up with a hard-fought display against Tsitsipas to win his first title of the season after one hour and 37 minutes.
In front of a packed crowd on centre court, Djokovic outmanoeuvred the Greek in the first set, before he showcased his winning mentality in the second set, rallying from 2-5 to become the oldest Rome champion at 34 years, 11 months and 23 days.
“I pleasantly surprised myself I can say. I had a clear game plan and I knew what to expect, so I knew what I had to do, but I did play a perfect first set,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “After that it was a little tighter. At this level, one or two points can turn a match and he was then back in the game at 4-1 up.
“The match could easily have gone to a third set but I managed to find the right shots at the right time to come back into the match. The tie-break I was maybe an inch better, but it was a tight, tight tie-break for both of us.”
Djokovic was appearing in his fourth straight final at the clay-court event and has now lifted the trophy in the Italian capital six times, with his first triumph coming in 2008.
“Two days ago I played great,” Djokovic said. “I have been building my form for the past couple of weeks and I knew that my best shape on clay usually comes around Rome time, so it could not be better going into Roland Garros with a title.”
The top seed, who will spend a record-extending 370th week at No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings from Monday, has defeated Tsitsipas in consecutive years in Rome, having overcome the fourth seed in the quarter-finals in 2021. Djokovic now leads the Greek 7-2 in their ATP Head2Head series and holds a 5-0 record against the 23-year-old on clay.
Djokovic reached the semi-finals in Madrid last week and has built further momentum in Rome. He did not drop a set en route to the final, earning wins over Aslan Karatsev, Stan Wawrinka, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Casper Ruud.
With his win, the Serbian has improved his record against Top 10 opponents to 232-106. No player has more Top 10 victories than Djokovic since the start of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in 1973.
“He played really well. He started amazing,” Tsitsipas said in his post-match press conference. “He played great tennis. Really closing the gap in most of the shots. Behind every single ball. Incredible handling of every single ball, not giving away any unforced errors.”