© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic pushes Rafael Nadal to a third set, but falls short of claiming his sixth Rome title.

Djokovic: 'I'm Very Pleased With My Fighting Spirit'

The World No. 1 reflects on loss against Nadal in Rome final

Novak Djokovic was disappointed to fall short in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final on Sunday against his great rival, Rafael Nadal. But the Serbian departs Rome as confident as he has been all clay-court season.

“[We played] almost three hours of high-quality tennis. Of course I'm disappointed not to win it, but at the same time I'm very pleased with the level of tennis that I managed to find in the later stages of this tournament,” Djokovic said. “Going into Paris brings me good sensation. I actually now [am starting] to feel like I actually want to feel on clay. So I think if I manage to play the way I played last night and today, I think I have a good chance to go all the way in Paris.”

Djokovic had a difficult path to the championship match, earning two victories on Saturday just to earn a shot against Nadal, who is now a 10-time champion at the Foro Italico.

“I could have easily went out from this tournament in quarters. I'm very pleased with my fighting spirit. The level of tennis was higher and higher, actually. Yesterday I played great. Today I thought I also played a high level,” Djokovic said. “Unfortunately [the] decisive moments in the first and third sets [today] just went his way. It was a bit unfortunate.”

Had Djokovic showed signs of fatigue against Nadal, it would have been understandable given he spent four hours and 56 minutes on court on Saturday. But the Serbian came out swinging after losing the second set, and he had a chance to surge into a lead in the decider.

“Not at all. I did not feel any fatigue. He managed to break my serve and played better, that's it. As I said, [until] the last shot it was quite close. I had my shot to win it, but [it] wasn't meant to be. I didn't feel fatigue,” Djokovic said. “Actually, I was very happy with the way I felt on the court. I could have gone for another few hours.”

Although Djokovic fell short of lifting his sixth Rome trophy, he earned a series of mental victories throughout the tournament, and he will also climb to second in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. According to the Serbian, rallying past Stefanos Tsitsipas in a thrilling quarter-final that was played across Friday and Saturday due to rain, ranks high on that list.

“Mentally it means a lot to overcome a huge obstacle against Tsitsipas. I was a set and a break down. He was serving for the match. He had everything to finish that match, like probably Shapovalov had everything to finish the match against Rafa,” Djokovic said. “We both dug ourselves out of quite a big hole and managed to reach [the] final.

“He was just [the] better player in the decisive moments, and he took the victory away from me, but [it] was very close. I have a lot of positives to take away from today.”

You May Also Like: Nadal Fights Past Djokovic For Record-Extending 10th Rome Crown

Djokovic will next compete at the Belgrade Open the week before Roland Garros. Last month, he played at the same venue in the Serbia Open, but lost against Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals. The Serbian will take some time to recover before trying to lift a trophy on home soil.

“I’m going to rest as much as I can, because I had enough time with the racquet on the court. So I'm just going to rejuvenate, regroup, and then start training again some days before the start of the Belgrade Open,” Djokovic said. “I'm hoping I can go all the way there, playing at home. Most likely we are going to see the crowd in the stands, so that's going to be fantastic to feed off that energy, to go to Paris with good feelings on the court, off the court, spend some time with the family additionally, which I wouldn't get if I go earlier to Paris.

“I have to obviously keep the momentum going I feel with the quality of tennis. Do more training, of course, and [play a] few more matches. I think I'm on the right way. Actually, the past couple days really gave me the confidence boost for the clay. I found the game. So now I just have to maintain that level and peak in Paris.”

More stories like this in: