Djokovic enters French defense with Italian title

ROME — Just in time.

Novak Djokovic raised his first trophy of the year at the Italian Open on Sunday and showed that he is back in top form exactly a week before the French Open starts.

After missing a large portion of the season because he wasn’t vaccinated against the coronavirus, the top-ranked Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6 (5) for his sixth Rome title.

Djokovic didn’t drop a set all week.

He needed only a half-hour to win the opening set, during which Tsitsipas got so frustrated at one point that he banged his racket against his bag during a changeover and mangled the frame.

After falling behind early in the second set, Djokovic stepped up his game when Tsitsipas served for the set at 5-3.

First, Djokovic ripped a forehand cross-court return winner that landed on the line. On the next point, he pushed Tsitsipas from corner to corner before the fifth-ranked Greek player resorted to a drop shot attempt that landed in the net. Djokovic celebrated with a series of fist pumps as the crowd chanted his nickname: “NO-LE, NO-LE.”

When a backhand from Tsitsipas sailed wide on the first match point, Djokovic simply raised his arms and smiled.

Djokovic, who was deported because of his unvaccinated status ahead of the Australian Open, hadn’t won a tournament since raising the Paris Masters trophy in November.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion reached the final of his home Serbia Open last month. He was beaten by 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open semifinals last week.

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