Novak Djokovic claimed the 20th Major title at Wimbledon to join Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the top of the standings. The Serb has been the player to beat since 2011, entering that season with one Major title and doing his best to match his closest rival, with a massive chance to pass them already in September.
Fourteen years ago, Novak became the third-strongest player on the Tour behind Federer and Nadal, reaching all four Major semi-finals as the youngest player in the Open era and entering his first Major final in New York. In Rome, the Serb lost to Rafael Nadal, and he spoke about the improvements he has to make to challenge the rivals from the top.
Novak headed to Rome with 18 wins in the last 20 encounters and beat Robin Soderling and Marcos Baghdatis. In the quarter-final, he faced an ultimate challenge in the defending champion Rafael Nadal, who toppled him 6-2, 6-3 after an hour and 41 minutes of a grueling battle.
It was the third victory for Rafa over Novak in four encounters, as he dropped only 13 points in eight service games and fended off the only break point offered to Djokovic. Novak served at 72%, but that brought him nothing against the fiercest possible rival on clay, losing half of the points in his games and suffering four breaks from 12 chances that Nadal created.
The better-ranked player grabbed a break in the first game following Djokovic's forehand error and held at 15 to cement the lead. Novak saved four break chances in the third game and brought it home with a smash winner to add his name on the scoreboard.
Novak Djokovic spoke about his greatest rivals in Rome 2007.
Nadal held at love in game four and created more opportunities on the return a few minutes later, denied by Djokovic, who repelled three break points to remain within one break deficit.
At 3-2, Rafa saved the only break point he faced, moved 5-2 in front with a break at 15 and clinched the opener in the next game when Novak netted a forehand. Djokovic was there to fight in the opening six games of the second set, only to play a loose service game and send Rafa in front after a wild forehand.
The defending champion confirmed the break with a forehand winner to forge a 5-3 lead before crossing the finish line with a break at love in game nine. "I'm not in a hurry; I'm trying to practice and focus on my career.
I know that I need a lot of experience and improvements to beat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. That's my goal, to become the best player in the world. I'm only 20, and I hope to play for ten or 15 years. I will try to improve my volley and use the opportunities at the net.
My groundstrokes are powerful and aggressive, but I have to rush to the net more and finish the points on my terms. Also, I have to improve my serve," Novak Djokovic said.