Rome Masters 2020: Novak Djokovic wins record 36th Masters title against Schwartzman

Novak Djokovic beats number eight seed Diego Schwartzman to win the Rome Masters title

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (Photo: Jordan Mansfield for The Boodles)

On paper, the final of this year’s Internazionali BNL D’Italia pointed to another Masters title for the world No1 Novak Djokovic.

It was a title that would take the top seed to a record 36th top-tier title, ahead of Rafael Nadal, and it would make the Serb, at 33, the oldest Rome champion in the Open era. But weighing in the scales against his final opponent, No8 seed Diego Schwartzman, were still more records, runs and titles.

Djokovic came into the final match on Court Centrale on a 30-1 run in 2020, with titles won at the ATP Cup, the Australian Open, Dubai and the Cincinnati Masters.

In Rome alone, Djokovic had won four titles from nine finals, and as if he needed any more of a boost, he had reached the final without facing a seed—and dropped only one set in the process.

Now he faced a man playing his first Masters final, a man who was still on court late into Sunday night in a thrilling three and a quarter-hour semi-final, and a man he had beaten in all four of their previous matches. In the Argentine’s favour? He had taken Djokovic to three sets on this very court in May 2019.

It certainly was not the start Djokovic and his fans anticipated, a break in the opening game. Schwartzman then survived two deuces to take a 2-0 lead. It did not stop there. With the drizzle persisting, and the conditions heavier than they had been all week, he played a couple of lame backhands to conceded another break.

The shortest man to play a Masters final looked more at ease, though he would know that his own serve was vulnerable to the best returner on the tour, and sure enough, after missing a slew of first serves in the fourth game, Schwartzman faced a break back. A double fault handed the game to Djokovic, 3-1, and soon after, another break took them to 3-3.

They edged on, and Schwartzman worked a break chance, as both men played to the corners, threw in drop shots, chased for pick-ups, but the Argentine could not break through. He would have to serve to save the set, at 4-5, and he saw his first serve rocket past him on the opening point.

It proved to be long and gutsy hold, via set-point to Djokovic, and they headed into the second hour. But Schwartzman could not hold off the former champion on his next serve. He fought off two more set points but not the third, and Djokovic roared to his chair, 7-5.

Somewhat bizarrely Schwartzman pulled off the same trick at the start of the second, breaking immediately, but this time, Djokovic broke straight back. Not that the Serb looked entirely comfortable, or happy, with his tennis, but he continued to produce leg- and heart-depleting rallies to wear the Argentine down.

Now Schwartzman needed help with his blistered and split fingers, and the medic came to tape them up. Two more break points did come and go, but Djokovic retained his lead, 3-2.

The Argentine, indeed, won just one more game, as Djokovic went on an 11-point run before serving out the win, 6-3.

As if those Masters records are not enough, however, one more milestone was passed by Djokovic on his 21st day of September. He passed Pete Sampras in the all-time list of No1 ranked players, with his 287th week at the top. Only Roger Federer—absent since the Australian Open due to knee surgery—has more, 310.

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