World No. 1 Novak Djokovic admitted not facing Rafael Nadal in the Rome Masters final is going to be "strange." Nadal, a nine-time Rome champion, suffered a shock quarterfinal defeat on the clay courts of Rome as Diego Schwartzman delivered one of his best performances ever to stun the Spaniard.
Djokovic, who beat Casper Ruud in the Rome semifinal, is aiming to lift his fifth Rome title. "Of course it makes a difference playing or not playing Nadal in the finals. Most of the finals that I reached in the big events on clay I played against Rafa, so it’s going to be strange not facing him," Djokovic said, per Ravi Ubha.
Djokovic spoke highly of Nadal after his quarterfinal win
"Well, of course in our sport, winning most Grand Slams and being No. 1 for as long as possible are two biggest goals, I would say, professional goals. I think Roger and Rafa would agree with that," Djokovic said after beating Dominik Koepfer in the quarterfinal.
"You know, we all have our own journeys and our own trajectories and careers that are very unique and very specific, but at the same time, we have this era that we have been playing in together that brings us together.
"I think this is definitely one of the best eras of tennis, and I'm grateful to be part of such era with these two guys. They are incredible champions on and off the court. "We have some young guys and we have a new Grand Slam winner in Dominic Thiem, which was kind of expected in a way, knowing his qualities and seeing him reach three finals before and now winning.
It's great for tennis, as well, to see new faces, but I think it's also quite important for tennis fans and sports fans to keep on seeing, I think, three of us trying to reach these heights, you know, trying to fight for Grand Slam titles.
"Any time we get to play against each other between three of us is always a blockbuster match regardless of the court or surface or location. "Yeah, let's see. I mean, obviously Roger is injured and he's not going to play this year.
We hope that we are going to have Roland Garros and the whole season end as best as possible without any interruption for the tennis players. It's very important obviously for our sport to keep going. "Roland Garros is the last slam, the last opportunity of this season.
So we all know who the main favorite is there. Obviously it's Nadal and everything that he has achieved there, losing maybe couple matches in his entire career on that court, which is probably the most impressive record that anybody has on any court. So, yeah, of course you would put him right there in front as a favorite to win it."