Denis Shapovalov ranks career-best 10th following Djokovic title win in Rome
Canadian ousted in Italian Open semis by Schwartzman, who lost in Monday final
Fifteen days after he was defaulted from the U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic had plenty to celebrate on Monday.
Djokovic beat Diego Schwartzman 7-5, 6-3 to win his fifth Italian Open title in 10 tries; 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.
"I did experience mentally some kind of ups and downs in the first four-five days after [the U.S. Open default] happened. I was in shock," Djokovic said. "But I moved on and really I never had an issue in my life to move on from something. Regardless how difficult it is I try to take the next day and hope for the best and move on.
"Having a tournament a week after that happened helped a lot … just because I really wanted to get on the court and just get whatever traces of that — if there's any — out, and I think I had a really good week."
Djokovic improved to 31-1 this year, with his only loss against Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round of the U.S. 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.
Canada's Denis Shapovalov, by virtue of Djokovic's victory on Monday, has climbed to a career-high 10th in the ATP rankings after dropping a three-set match to Schwartzman in Sunday's semifinals.
Top 10 feels 🐺💪🏼 <a href="https://t.co/4jKosICqoo">pic.twitter.com/4jKosICqoo</a>—@denis_shapo
The 21-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., has enjoyed an excellent run since the ATP returned to action following a months-long shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic that includes a quarter-final appearance at the U.S. Open earlier this month.
Raonic ranked 3rd in November 2016
Shapovalov joins Milos Raonic as the only Canadians to reach the ATP top 10.
Raonic first reached the milestone on Aug. 12, 2013 and reached a career-high No. 3 on Nov. 21, 2016. The 29-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., is currently ranked 19th.
Djokovic dropped only one set in five matches this past week, having had to battle through a three-setter against German qualifier Dominik Koepfer in the quarter-finals.
WATCH | Novak Djokovic captures 5th Italian Open title in 10 attempts:
"I don't think I played my best tennis, to be honest. I don't want to be arrogant here — of course I'm very, very satisfied and pleased to win a title — but I know that I still have a couple of gears," Djokovic said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to raise that level for the French, because that's going to be necessary if I want to go deep in the tournament."
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 to finish off the match in just under two hours, and just before it began raining.
Halep captures her 1st Rome title
With his 36th Masters 1000 title, Djokovic moved one ahead of Nadal atop the all-time list.
In the women's final earlier Monday, top-seeded Simona Halep won her first Rome title when 2019 champion Karolina PlÍsková retired midway through their match with a left thigh injury.
Schwartzman had beaten nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals then edged Shapovalov in a long three-setter in the semifinals. But no player has beaten Nadal and Djokovic in the same tournament since 2016 when Juan Martin del Potro achieved the feat in the Rio Olympics.
Able to run down virtually everything, the five-foot-seven Schwartzman gave Djokovic fits early on, when there was a brief rain shower.
With Schwartzman standing far behind the court, Djokovic began relying heavily on his backhand drop shot, although it took him three efforts into the net until he finally found his range.
The drop shots began to pay off, though, as evidenced when Djokovic won a 19-shot rally to save a break point at 4-4 in the first set with a short ball that set up an easy volley winner.
Having received warnings from the chair umpire in his previous two matches — for smashing a racket in the quarter-finals and for foul language in the semifinals — Djokovic was on better behaviour in the final.
WATCH | Djokovic loses temper yet again in Rome quarter-finals:
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.
The men's prize was reduced even more drastically. Djokovic received 205,200 euros ($242,000 US) compared to the 958,055 euros ($1.1 million) that Rafael Nadal took home last year.
With files from The Canadian Press