Novak Djokovic's season is increasingly looking like a tennis player's dream. On Sunday, he romped to a straight-set victory over world number one Rafael Nadal in the final of the Rome Masters, continuing his magnificent unbeaten run.
Many expected the Serb to fall, especially considering the tiresome manner in which Andy Murray had pushed him in the semifinal a day before. He had played a total of 3 hours and two minutes on Saturday and had to face one of modern tennis' greats on Sunday.
However, it was Djokovic who had Nadal chasing for most part of the match, eventually winning 6-4 6-4 - his 39th win on the trot.
Bear in mind that beating Nadal on clay is never an easy task, let alone in a final. However, those who glanced through the stats would have seen that Djokovic had beaten Nadal in three finals already this season - Madrid, Miami and Indian Wells. The run of form has propelled him into the world number two spot, on the verge of the top rank. In the course of the winning-run, he pushed another tennis great - Roger Federer - into the peripheries, and it increasingly looks like Nadal could face the same fate.
Djokovic has now won seven titles in total this year - the Australian Open, Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Belgrade, Madrid and Rome.
In a fierce display of tennis from both players, Djokovic came out on top in the first set after he earned the first break point in the eighth game. He took it too after a miscued shot from Nadal gave him a 5-3 lead. He ended up serving for the set but here came the first of many twists on the night. A forehand error gave Nadal two break points which the Spaniard duly took to break back. However, Djokovic seized the set when he broke back in the very next game.
The second set didn't start too well for Nadal. Djokovic went up 2-0 when an intense rally ended with Nadal's sliced backhand drifting wide. However, the Spaniard is nothing if not determined and he broke back, resiliently, to claw his way back on level terms. At 2-2, Nadal stepped up the aggression. But Djokovic sublimely converted defence into attack with some jaw-dropping shot range. He went up 5-4 on serve and with just a set to victory, he stepped up his efforts to gain three match points.
The Spaniard wasn't giving up that easy though and he saved all three. However, Djokovic was given a fourth opportunity and he grasped it to claim a magnificent win when a running Nadal could only find the net.
Afterwards, he said, I'm amazed with the way I'm playing, especially today given the circumstances and the condition I was in. I played three hours yesterday against a player (Andy Murray) who was playing great, I was on the verge of losing that match and I came back.
Whatever the conditions I needed to step into the court and take chances and be aggressive. That's really the only way against Nadal on clay. I was able to perform maybe my best play on clay and I beat the number one in the world on clay. It's amazing, I'm going to enjoy this victory but then I need to get ready for Roland Garros.
Nadal, gracious in defeat as always, glorified Djokovic.
He's doing amazing things, he's very tough mentally and physically, he said. Every week he's winning matches, he's playing fantastically, he's doing a lot of things very well and he has a lot of confidence.
I was happy with the way I (played) today. I didn't hit the ball (badly) but it seems like he's always in a better position. I played more aggressive than one week ago. I didn't play all defensive like in Madrid.