In 2006, Novak Djokovic failed to qualify for the Rome Masters 1000, returning to the Italian capital as world number 5 a season later! Novak was among the top players in the first 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 his first Masters 1000 crown at the age of 19. Buoyed by this momentum and by victories over Nadal and Andy Murray, Novak clinched the title in Estoril on clay. He struggled in three matches but still crossed the finish line in first place to clinch a fifth ATP trophy and a top-5 spot.
His next stop was Rome, playing in the Italian capital as one of the favorites and taking on world number 27 Robin Soderling in a tough first round match. It was a tough match for the tired Djokovic, who battled the Swede 3-6 6-4 6-3 in two hours and 12 minutes.
Novak won seven more points than Robin, refusing nine of 13 break chances and stealing serve from his opponent in five of the six chances he had to reach the round of 16. After the match, Djokovic said that he felt tired after Estoril, but that he was confident in his abilities in the rest of the clay court season.
Djokovic praised the Foro Italico crowd, his compatriots and the Italians, hoping to have another good match against Marcos Baghdatis in the third round. "It was a tough match; Robin is a great player with powerful shots.
It wasn't easy for me to find my game and be aggressive as he also likes to keep points on his racket.
Nole is a two-time winner in Monte-Carlo
Former tennis player Brad Gilbert has admitted that before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he had been expecting Novak Djokovic to be dominating the tour around this time.
But taking all the recent developments into consideration, Gilbert reckons the Serb's prospects are quite uncertain at the moment. "Before any of this with COVID happened, I thought that Novak Djokovic would be unstoppable around this time.
[But now], it's all just a mystery with him," Gilbert said. "I just think that when you get so much equity by winning matches - which he had tons of - and all of a sudden you're not playing and all these things that happened with COVID, I think it's been mentally taxing."
Though the 60-year-old was cautiously optimistic about Djokovic getting back to his rhythm, he asserted that the World No. 1 needed more matches under his belt. "Now, it's kind of forgotten, but that guy has been there the whole time.
All of a sudden, he's gone," Gilbert said. "I think even if [Novak Djokovic] gets to play all through Europe, I gotta see results and I gotta see how he gets his game back. Maybe he will get it back."