Djokovic extended his recent dominance over Rafael Nadal by rallying for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory Sunday to win the Italian Open for the third time - then dedicated the title to his flood-hit native Serbia by carving a heart on the clay with his racket.
“This heart on the court is for you,” he told the fans in Italian during the victory celebration. “It’s also a special dedication to my country, which is suffering a lot right now. My heart is with them.”
Williams had a left thigh problem herself last week that prompted her to withdraw before her quarterfinal match at the Madrid Open but now she appears back on track for the French, which starts next Sunday.
“I’m not 100 percent but I’m just kind of going on adrenaline,” the top-ranked American said.
Djokovic found his motivation from a different source.
Authorities say 25 people have died in the Balkans because of the worst flooding in a century after three months’ worth of rain fell on the region in three days this week. Tens of thousands of homes were left without electricity or drinking water.
“I’m trying to contribute in my own way,” Djokovic said. “These are very critical times for our country and our people. But we’re being united and this win and this trophy is dedicated to them.”
Having also been beaten in Monte Carlo and Barcelona recently, it marked the first time in a decade that the top-ranked Nadal has lost more than two matches on clay in the same year.
Nadal was pushed to three sets in four out of his five matches here.
“When he hit the first ball good a lot of times it was very difficult to arrive to the ball and change the dynamic of the point,” Nadal said. “I didn’t have enough energy to hit the first shot with the right intensity.”
“It gives me a lot of confidence winning against Rafa in the finals of a big tournament on clay,” he said. “It’s definitely a confidence booster. It’s an ultimate challenge and I’m very happy with my game so far and hopefully I can carry that into Roland Garros.”