ROME – Novak Djokovic is starting to realize what an impact he’s making on tennis with his recent domination of Rafael Nadal – and everyone else in the game, too.
Djokovic beat the top-ranked Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in the Italian Open final Sunday to stretch his unbeaten start this year to 37 matches.
Djokovic trails only John McEnroe’s 42-0 start in 1984. Overall, the Serb has won 39 consecutive matches stretching to Serbia’s Davis Cup triumph in December, sixth best in the Open era, seven behind Guillermo Vilas’ record set in 1977.
“It’s an incredible honor to be a part of tennis history in some way and part of an elite group of players – (Roger) Federer, Nadal, McEnroe, (Ivan) Lendl, guys who were winning so many in a row,” Djokovic said. “I don’t know how much good it brings to tennis, but it’s good that someone else is able to win other than just Federer and Nadal. It makes it more interesting.”
The second-ranked Djokovic has beaten Nadal in all four finals they’ve played this year and defeated the Spaniard for the first time on clay last week in the Madrid Open final.
This win makes Djokovic the first player to beat Nadal on clay twice in the same year, a feat that comes exactly a week before the French Open starts.
“I’m just most happy about the game I have this year on clay – the way I’m striking the ball and the way I’m so self-confident,” Djokovic said. “I always knew I could beat the top players, but now I have the confidence to do it.”
Djokovic’s edge over Nadal could enable him to overtake his rival for the No. 1 ranking the week after the French Open.
“He’s doing amazing things. Every match he’s very tough mentally and physically,” Nadal said. “I’m doing everything I can.”
Also Sunday, Maria Sharapova stormed to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Sam Stosur in the woman’s final for the biggest clay-court title of her career.
Sharapova is a three-time Grand Slam winner and Roland Garros remains the only major title she hasn’t won. She’ll now be among the favorites in Paris.
“This is just the beginning of many things to come. This is just the start of everything,” Sharapova said during the trophy presentation.