Novak Djokovic claimed the first Masters 1000 title on clay in Rome 2008, returning to the Foro Italico a year later and reaching the semi-final. The world's best players Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal stood between Novak and Rome's second crown, and the Serbian passed the first test in the semi-final with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Roger Federer.
. Novak defeated Roger after two hours and 11 minutes, dropping the first set and trailing 3-1 in sets two and three before emerging at the top to set up Rafael Nadal's clash. Djokovic beat Federer for the fourth time and the first on clay, defending eight of the 11 break opportunities and winning five breaks to cross the finish line first.
Federer could have opened up a 6-4, 3-0 lead and moved closer to the finish line, wasting break opportunities in that third game of the second set before rain knocked them off 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 that it would have been difficult to match Roger if he had gone 6-4, 3-0 up, and revealed that he played with more energy and stamina once they returned to the court. When action was resumed, Djokovic defended a break opportunity at 1-3 to stay in contention and broke to equalize the score at 3-3.
In the eighth game, the Swiss made another backhand error to fall 5-3 and allowed the Serb to pull off an impressive comeback and seal the set with his serve at 5-3. After losing five straight games, Federer bounced back and produced two comfortable serving turns early in the decider and broke Djokovic at 15 in game four to open a 3-1 gap thanks to Novak's wild forehand.
El Aynaoui on Novak Djokovic
Younes El Aynaoui recently expressed his admiration for the Big 3, but reserved special praise for Novak Djokovic and his ability to juggle multiple roles simultaneously. "It's a pleasure to have the top three players in history in one era," El Aynaoui added.
"Young tennis players should take this as an example. Unfortunately, some young people prefer to watch the highlights of Benoit Paire and Nick Kyrgios. I recommend checking out Djokovic's highlights." The 50-year-old said he now works as a coach in Belgrade.
"I have lived in France for many years. After retiring in 2007, I spent a lot of time with my children," El Aynaoui said. "Then I got my coaching license in the French association and worked in the associations in Qatar and France."