Djokovic described his victory in Rome as the perfect way to prepare for his title shot in Paris.

FIFTEEN days after the embarrassment of New York Novak Djokovic showed that he is ready to be a major problem for Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

The 33-year-old Serb put the events of Flushing Meadows behind him by winning the Italian Open final on Monday night, recovering from a slow start to beat pugnacious Argentinian Diego Schwartzmann 7-5 6-3 before a small crowd at Rome’s Foro Italico.

As a reminder of his threat to Nadal – beaten by Schwartzmann on Saturday – he racked up his 36th Masters 1000 title, taking him one ahead of the Spaniard’s tally in the events just below Grand Slam level.

‘I don’t think I played my best tennis through the entire match but I found it when I needed it the most,’ said Djokovic, who could have summarised his whole week with that.

‘We go to Paris now and I couldn’t have asked for a better tournament.’

He won the title without beating any top 10 ranked players, but avoided any serious controversy after his fourth-round default at the US Open.

Having come back from a 0-3 deficit at the start his level was still a warning for his rivals. It looks very much like a three-horse race for the men’s title, with New York winner Dominic Thiem sitting out any preparatory events.

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who opted out of Flushing Meadows, suggested she is the favourite for the Paris women’s event, winning Monday’s Rome final when opponent Karolina Pliskova retired at 6-0 2-1 down.

The French Open qualifying got underway on Monday ahead of its Sunday main draw start, with five players having withdrawn due to either their own positive coronavirus tests or those of an associated coach. They may not be the last.



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