Djokovic Returns to Best in Rome

In my last post, I said Djokovic was showing signs of returning to his best when he defeated Agut 6-4, 6-4. Since then he defeated Del Potro 6-1, 6-4 and Thiem 6-1, 6-0. The display against Thiem was especially impressive.

I started noticing an improvement in Djokovic’s game against Lopez in Madrid, especially in his backhand. It could be the greatest backhand of all time and it is a key shot for him. When he hits it will full confidence it is an absolutely devastating shot like it was today against Thiem.

Djokovic’s return of serve is another contender for greatest of all time shot and that is another thing that he is hitting with confidence again. When his backhand and return of serve is on song then look out. Those two things alone inflicts immense damage.

Thiem defeated Nadal 6-4, 6-3 in a masterful display himself but Djokovic made Thiem look like an amateur. His return of serve is especially troubling to Thiem because it rushes him and Thiem doesn’t cope very well with being rushed at all.

That is a shortcoming of his game and why he is most comfortable on clay where he has plenty of time to set up for his shots. Except when he plays Djokovic. But he’s done very well this clay court season and he will definitely be a factor at the French Open.

As for Nadal, he sure has good timing with his losses. Almost as if he recognizes what is coming. In the form Djokovic was in today he would have defeated Nadal in any form. It’s the highest level of tennis ever seen and probably can’t be defeated.

That is the level of Djokovic from 2015-16 and if Djokovic keeps it up Nadal and Federer is in serious trouble. But I don’t want to hype his form too much before he wins the Rome title. He did the same thing against Nishikori in the London semi-finals last year only to lose to Murray in straight sets.

And although I don’t think we will have a repeat of that I think it is important for Djokovic to win his first big title since Toronto last year. If he does that I think he will have a great shot at defending his French Open title.

It will also give him the sole title record for Masters events again after Nadal equaled him at 30 in Madrid. So that would be a nice way to go into the second major of the year and if he keeps his current form up Nadal won’t be able to stop him at the French.

It is a ridiculous level of tennis. You almost want to laugh. Like you’ve seen pigs flying. But we will see what happens in the final tomorrow when Djokovic faces Zverev who made his first Masters final in Rome.

So congrats to him but if Djokovic continues his form of this week so far he may wish he didn’t make the final. I don’t expect it to be as one-sided as the against Thiem anyway. This will be Djokovic and Zverev’s first meeting so it will be interesting to see how they match up.

One other thing that is worth a mention is Djokovic’s body language today. It’s as if all the pent-up frustration from his slump was released as he showed a lot of emotion and let rip with several loud come-ons in important moments.

It’s been a difficult and frustrating time for him but he kept grinding away and with the seemingly rigged scheduling in Rome he took matters into his own hands and seems to be peaking right in the nick of time.

But first things first…

  • Highlights

Djokovic Shows Signs of Returning to Best in Rome

It’s quarterfinal time in Rome and Djokovic and Nadal is one match away from playing each other in consecutive clay Masters semis. But they both have tough quarterfinal matches coming up. Djokovic faces Del Potro and Nadal faces Thiem who he also faced in the Barcelona and Madrid finals.

Djokovic has shown some signs of returning to his best level this week so far with straight-set wins over Bedene and Agut. Today he defeated Agut 6-4, 6-4 which is a good scoreline against a tough competitor.

This was Djokovic’s third straight-set victory in about a week which bodes well for his confidence. His next opponent Del Potro will be another test. Del Potro is a very talented player who already beat Dimitrov, Edmund, and Nishikori in Rome.

And that after playing only one other clay court match during the season in Estoril. Today he defeated 7th seed Nishikori 7-6(4), 6-3. Djokovic defeated him in Acapulco and Indian Wells but Del Potro is always a danger.

At least it is very unlikely the Del Potro will withdraw like Nishikori did in Madrid because if Djokovic is going to stand a chance at defeating Nadal he will need at least one more big test. That said, Thiem is no pushover either and saved three match points in the third-set tiebreak against Querrey today.

In the top half, Murray and Wawrinka lost early again and the quarters will be Zverev vs Raonic and Isner vs Cilic. Murray has been a very poor number and Djokovic will pass him in the race if he defeats Del Potro.

Djokovic is starting to find some form now but it is yet to be seen if it will be enough to defend his French Open title. I don’t like to look further ahead than one match but if he does meet Nadal in Rome he will probably need to defeat him to have any chance at defeating him at the French.

Let’s see what happens tomorrow. Looking forward to good tennis!

  • Highlights

Federer Pulls Out of French Open

Some people were predicting this would happen and I wasn’t one of them. Given Federer’s form so far this year and how he fared against Nadal, and also how much he values grand slam events made me believe he would play the French Open.

I mean if he could come from a six-month break to win the Australian Open then surely he could win the French Open but in the end, I think he did the right thing. There was no way he was going to beat Nadal on clay in his current form without playing any warm-up events on clay.

Maybe he saw how dominant Nadal is on clay again and thought it would be better to rest some more and not risk any injury. Federer is easily the favorite to win Wimbledon this year and there is no reason to risk that.

It does mean that beating Nadal at the French Open or winning the double career slam is less likely now but it is astonishing enough what happened in Australia this year.

  • Rome Draw

Rome started today and I am currently watching Del Potro vs Dimitrov which is a terrific first round encounter. This is now the third clay Masters where Nadal and Djokovic are in one half and Murray and Wawrinka in the other.

Again, it seems like something is working against Djokovic. It’s a similar draw for him than Madrid because he has Nishikori in the quarters. But he also gets Kyrgios who has a tough draw himself with Agut and Busta.

Djokovic will play Bedene tomorrow in his first match which should provide a good match for him to acclimatize. I’d really like to see Djokovic get through his quarter again.

I’d rather Nadal lose before the semis but if he doesn’t Djokovic should be better prepared this time if he comes through his quarter(given Nishikori does not withdraw again).

Who will win Rome?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...