Novak Djokovic claimed his first clay-court Masters 1000 title in Rome 2008. The Serb returned to Foro Italico a year later and reached the semi-final. The world's best players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, stood between Novak and his second Rome crown.
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 the 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 moved closer to the finish line.
However, he wasted break opportunities in that second set's third game 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. Novak said he played with more energy and stamina once they returned to the court. Djokovic defended a break chance at 1-3 when they resumed the action and broke back to lock the result at 3-3.
Novak Djokovic turned the tables against Roger Federer in Rome 2009.
The Swiss sprayed another backhand error in the eighth game to fall 5-3 down and allowed the Serb to perform an impressive comeback and seal the set with a hold at love.
Federer dropped five straight games and had to start all over in the decider. He recovered his game and produced two comfortable holds at the beginning of the final set. Roger broke Novak at 15 in game four to open a 3-1 gap thanks to a wild forehand from the Serb.
In a pivotal moment, Djokovic broke back at love in game five 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 and held at 15 in the next one.
The defending champion sealed the deal with his fifth break in game nine when Roger placed a backhand wide, advancing into his ninth Masters 1000 final at 21. "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 it would have been much tougher to make a comeback.
Despite losing it, I played well in the opener, spoiling everything with 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.