When the ATP Tour resumed last month, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was second on the ATP Masters 1000 titles leaderboard with 34. The Serbian has shown good form since the restart and in Monday’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia final, he will have a chance to lift a record-breaking 36th trophy at this level.
“These are the biggest tournaments we have on our ATP Tour,” Djokovic said. “Obviously the Masters 1000 events are as important as it gets on the Tour. These are the events where I want to perform my best other than Grand Slams and the [Nitto ATP] Finals.”
Djokovic is currently tied with Rafael Nadal at 35 Masters 1000 titles each. But while the Spaniard was upset in the Rome quarter-finals, the Serbian is into his 10th final at the Foro Italico.
“[Making the] final at such a big event means a lot even after 15 years of being on the Tour. I still am as motivated [as ever] to get my hands on the trophy,” Djokovic said. “This is what I work for as much as anybody else on the Tour. Of course as the time passes by, the tougher it gets.”
The four-time Rome champion admitted that it will be different playing someone other than Nadal in the final, considering the lefty has triumphed nine times at this event. Djokovic and Nadal have played eight times in Rome, including five championship clashes.
“Most of the finals that I reached in the big events on clay I played against Rafa,” Djokovic said. “So it’s going to be strange not facing him, but at the same time, Diego and Denis have deservedly reached the semi-finals. Let’s see who I get to face. But whoever I get to face, I’ll try to do my best and win the trophy.”
Djokovic, who won two three-setters in his run to the Western & Southern Open title last month, has not had it easy in Rome. The 33-year-old has only gone to a decider once at this event — in the quarter-finals against Dominik Koepfer — but he was pushed hard in the Round of 16 against countryman Filip Krajinovic and the semi-finals against Casper Ruud.
“Obviously I’m not super fresh and young as I maybe was five, 10 years ago, but I still feel physically really good and I love playing in Rome. I always want to do well here. I feel great support and great energy from the crowd,” Djokovic said. “With Nadal in the finals and without Nadal in the finals makes a big difference. Nevertheless, I will not underestimate anybody that steps on the court against me tomorrow.”
Making history in tennis is of the utmost importance to the World No. 1. On Monday, he will break his tie with Pete Sampras for the second-most weeks atop the FedEx ATP Rankings. The Serbian hopes it will be a sweet celebration with a fifth Rome title in hand.
“Hopefully I can get another big trophy.”