Djokovic beat Diego Schwartzman to win his fifth Italian Open title and re-assert his dominance before the French Open starts in six days.
Rome: Fifteen days after he was defaulted from the US Open, Novak Djokovic had plenty to celebrate on Monday.
Djokovic beat Diego Schwartzman 7-5, 6-3 to win his fifth Italian Open title; he passed childhood idol Pete Sampras for the second-most weeks at No 1 with 287 — trailing only Roger Federer’s 310 weeks in the top spot — and he re-asserted his dominance before the French Open starts in six days.
Djokovic improved to 31-1 this year — with his only loss against Pablo Carreño Busta in the fourth round of the US Open. That, of course, was when Djokovic unintentionally hit a line judge in the throat with a ball in a fit of anger — resulting in him being thrown out.
Against Schwartzman, who was playing his first Masters 1000 final, Djokovic recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the opening set and eventually wore down the steady Argentine.
With his 36th Masters 1000 title, Djokovic moved one ahead of Rafael Nadal atop the all-time list.
In the women’s final, top-seeded Simona Halep won her first Rome title when 2019 champion Karolína Plíšková retired midway through their match with a left thigh injury.
Halep was leading 6-0, 2-1 when Plíšková stopped playing after just 31 minutes.
Schwartzman had beaten nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals then edged Denis Shapovalov in a long three-setter in the semi-finals.
No player has beaten Nadal and Djokovic in the same tournament since 2016 when Juan Martín del Potro achieved the feat in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Having received warnings from the chair umpire in his previous two matches — for smashing a racket in the quarterfinals and for foul language in the semifinals — Djokovic was on better behavior in the final.
Earlier, Plíšková had her lower back treated by a trainer after Halep won the first set. Plíšková also had her left thigh taped during the match.
Due to the pandemic, a crowd of only 1,000 fans was allowed inside the 10,500-seat Campo Centrale stadium.
The tournament, which was rescheduled from its usual May slot due to the pandemic, also had reduced prize money.
Halep collected a winner’s check of 205,190 euros ($242,000) — down from the 523,858 euros ($616,000) awarded to Plíšková last year.
The men’s prize was reduced even more drastically. Djokovic received 205,200 euros ($242,000) compared to the 958,055 euros ($1.1 million) that Nadal took home last year.
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