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Tennis News • Master Of Them All: Djokovic Solo Leader With 36 ATP Masters “1000“ Titles Following Rome Triumph

By Ricky Dimon

Novak Djokovic captured his fifth title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and 36th Masters 1000 title of his career when he defeated Diego Schwartzman 7-5, 6-3 in Monday’s final. Djokovic recovered from a double-break down in the first set to prevail in one hour and 53 minutes.

The world No 1 had previously been tied at the top with Rafael Nadal at 35 Masters titles, so he is now the solo leader in that department. He has won three such events in a row dating back to last fall–also the 2019 Paris Masters and the 2020 Cincinnati Masters.

“It was a great week,” Djokovic assured. “A very challenging week. I don’t think I played my best tennis throughout the entire week, but I think I found my best tennis when I needed it the most in the decisive moments today, yesterday [and in] practically every match.

Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the men’s singles final round match against Diego Schwartzman at the Italian Open.

“That definitely makes me very satisfied and proud that I managed to find that fifth gear when it was most needed. Turning to Paris, I couldn’t ask for a better tournament here in Rome. Another big title; [I am] super pleased with it.”

For a moment it looked like Schwartzman might have another upset in him.  The 14th-ranked Argentine, who upset Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals before outlasting Denis Shapovalov in a three-hour and 15-minute semifinal thriller, surged to a 3-0 advantage in the first set thanks to two consecuctive breaks. However, the top-seeded Serb was quick to restore order to the proceedings. He got both of the breaks back immediately, beginning a streak of four straight games that propelled him to a 4-3 lead. Schwartzman–a Rome semifinalist last spring–eventually saved a set point on serve at 4-5 with a forehand, but he cracked while serving to stay in the set a second time at 5-6.

Although Schwartzman also led by a break early in the second, it was–once again–nothing more than a wake-up call for Djokovic. The 33-year-old broke back immediately and went on to seal the deal by winning 11 of the match’s final 13 points.

“[Diego] played well in heavy conditions, especially at the beginning,” Djokovic praised. “He played many long matches. He had fantastic wins against Nadal and Shapovalov last night, so credit to him for a phenomenal tournament and I wish him all the best in the rest of the season.”

“I’m very happy to be playing with you,” Schwartzman told the crowd during the trophy ceremony. “I want to say congrats to Nole; he’s a great champion. I’m very happy to be here; I did one better than last year.”

Diego Schwartzman celebrates with his trophy after the men’s singles final round match at the Italian Open.

Schwartzman would have cracked the top 10 for the first time ever with a win on Monday. Instead, that distinction goes to Shapovalov.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.