Novak Djokovic claimed the first Masters 1000 title on clay in Rome 2008, returning to Foro Italico a year later and reaching the semi-final. The world's best players Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal stood between Novak and the second Rome crown, and the Serb passed the first test in the semi-final with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Roger Federer.
Novak defeated Roger after two hours and 11 minutes, losing the opening set and trailing 3-1 in sets two and three before emerging at the top to set Rafael Nadal clash. Djokovic beat Federer for the fourth time and the first on clay, defending eight out of 11 break chances and earning five breaks to cross the finish line first.
Federer could have opened a 6-4, 3-0 advantage and move closer to the finish line, wasting break opportunities in that third game of the second set before the rain sent them away from the court for 70 minutes. Djokovic played with more energy when they returned and took the set in style to force a decider.
The Serb admitted it would have been tough to catch Roger had he gone 6-4, 3-0 up, and revealed that he played with more energy and stamina once they returned to the court. When they resumed the action, Djokovic defended a break chance at 1-3 to stay in contention and broke back to lock the result at 3-3.
In the eighth game, the Swiss sprayed another backhand error to fall 5-3 down and allowed the Serb to perform an impressive comeback and seal the set with a hold at love at 5-3. After dropping five straight games, Federer recovered and produced two comfortable holds at the beginning of the decider and broke Djokovic at 15 in game four to open a 3-1 gap thanks to Novak's wild forehand.
Novak Djokovic turned the tables against Roger Federer in Rome 2009.
In a pivotal moment, Djokovic broke back at love in game nine with a forehand crosscourt winner and forced Federer's error in the next one to lock the result at 3-3.
With momentum on his side, Novak stole the rival's serve again in game seven, held at 15 in the next one and sealed the deal with his fifth break in game nine when Roger placed a backhand wide to advance into the ninth Masters 1000 final.
"The second set's third game before the rain was critical. Everybody will say that the rain helped me, and it's a fact that I played much better after that. Once we returned, I was moving better and forced Roger always to play an extra ball.
He could have broken me for the second time, and then it would have been much tougher to make a comeback. I played well in the opener despite losing it, and I spoiled everything with some late unforced errors. Roger's serve worked well before the rain, and he had ups and downs when we returned. He started feeling the pressure, as I returned well and sent many balls back," Novak Djokovic said.