Novak Djokovic claimed his first Masters 1000 title on clay at Rome 2008. A year later, the Serbian reached another semi-final at the Foro Italico, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal between him and defending the title. In the quarterfinals, Novak defeated No.
5 Juan Martín Del Potro 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 37 minutes to set up the semi-final clash against Federer, the first on clay in two years. Speaking about his next challenge, Novak praised Roger as one of the best clay players in the last four or five years, although he admitted that Nadal is still the most formidable opponent on the slower surface.
Djokovic played well against Del Potro, reducing a teenager to eight winners and 30 unforced errors and breaking it three times. They traded breaks in games two and three of Game 1, and Del Potro suffered another 1-2 to find himself 4-1 down after Djokovic's forehand winner in Game 5.
The Serbian brought the seventh game home with a perfect half volley winner and secured the set with an ace at 5-3. Juan Martín blew two break opportunities in the fourth game of the second set and broke in the next to find himself 3-2 down.
Djokovic has been spending time away from tennis
Speaking to Tennis365 as he promoted The Master, his outstanding book looking at Roger Federer’s career, Clarey told us that Novak Djokovic deserves credit for overcoming huge hurdles to join his rivals by winning 20 Grand Slam titles.
“As for Novak, he has spoken about his frustration earlier on in his career about the crowds not being with him, but I think those battle lines are now set. I guess that is good as it shows how strong a following these three great champions have created.
It is one of the reasons why tennis has been so successful in this era and why it has made for compelling viewing. They have all had their own people pulling for them and the rivalries have created some division among the public as well.
In the long run, it will really help him in terms of his legacy that he has been able to go up against them and beat them. His story and the crazy odds he has had to overcome to become who he is might be under-appreciated. Yet he has been his own worst enemy at times with some of the things he has done and the choices he has made, like the situation hitting the lines person at the US Open last year.
That kind of thing has not happened to Roger or Rafa, but it is part of Novak’s story. In some ways, his story reminds me of Ivan Lendl, who came along after Bjorn Borg and (John) McEnroe. Lendl was a great player, but he wasn’t universally popular.
Novak is a much more successful career and deserves to be recognised as one of the game’s all-time greats and maybe even the greatest”.