In 2006, Novak Djokovic failed to qualify for the Masters 1000 event in Rome, heading back to the Italian capital as world no. 5 a season later! Novak was among the best players in the opening four months of the 2007 season, winning the title in Adelaide and reaching the first Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells.
The Serb bounced back in Miami and claimed the first Masters 1000 crown at 19. Carried by this momentum and wins over Nadal and Andy Murray, Novak won the title in Estoril on clay. He struggled in three encounters but still crossed the finish line first for the fifth ATP trophy and a place in the top-5.
His next stop was Rome, playing in the Italian capital as one of the favorites and facing world no. 27 Robin Soderling in a tricky first-round match. It was a tough encounter for tired Djokovic, who battled past the Swede 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 12 minutes.
Novak won seven points more than Robin, fending off nine out of 13 break chances and stealing the rival's serve five times from six opportunities to find himself in the last 16. After the match, Djokovic said he felt tired after Estoril but confident in his abilities in the rest of the clay season.
Djokovic praised the crowd at Foro Italico, his compatriots and the Italians, hoping for another good match against Marcos Baghdatis in the third round.
Novak Djokovic scored a challenging win over Robin Soderling in Rome 2007.
"It was a difficult match; Robin is a great player with powerful strokes.
It was not easy for me to find my game and be aggressive, as he likes to keep the points on his racquet too. I'm happy to score a win; my self-confidence is high, which helped me today. I hope to recover for another tough match tomorrow.
I had a long season in the United States, and I did not have enough time to get used to clay. That's why I did not play well in Monte Carlo; it was not bad, but not my best tennis. I had to pass a couple of tough challenges en route to the title in Estoril last week.
That motivates me to push even harder in Rome, Hamburg and Paris. Last year, I lost in the qualifying round here in Rome, and today, a massive crowd came to watch and support me. It was fantastic, and I want to thank them. Both the Serbs and Italians were on my side, and it was a great feeling. After those long encounters in Portugal, I'm tired, but you have to be used to that," Novak Djokovic said.