Rome: Djokovic d. Wawrinka

Thursday, May 12, 2011 /by

Nd Despite Novak Djokovic's air of invincibility, I wondered if he would skip Rome after two straight weeks of title-winning tennis. But then I remembered his clothing sponsor, Sergio Tacchini. The Italian manufacturer, who outfits the umpires, ball boys and linesmen at the Foro Italico, would never allow it.

Its showpiece on the show court, Tacchini dressed Djokovic in black, with every wavelength of light as an accent. Djokovic looks good in black, and plays well in it, too. There was last Sunday against Rafael Nadal, the 2008 Australian Open final and his U.S. Open quarterfinal later that year against Andy Roddick, a match remembered more for Djokovic's post-match barbs (he wore a black hat that night, too) than his fine play.

The way Djokovic is playing these days, Tacchini could have wedged him into an old John McEnroe number and he'd do just as well, while simultaneously resurrecting the popularity of the short short. But in his sleek new digs, Djokovic gathered his 36th consecutive win with a 6-4, 6-1 decision over Stanislas Wawrinka.

In the first set, we saw the good Wawrinka—the player who crushes flat, deep backhands and makes Switzerland look more than a one-man show. He tested Djokovic, holding serve comfortably and earning his share of break points, six in all. The Serb was visibly irritated at times; I'm unsure if it was a result of Wawrinka's form or his own, or something totally unrelated. Whatever the case, Djokovic weathered the storm and took care of his own serve, which sometimes is all you can do.

Then, in the 10th game, Djokovic stormed Wawrinka with his array of shots. The backhand is what we're marveled by, but Djokovic's forehand—also markedly improved—sets up those kill shots. After missing on two set points, Djokovic brought out the wide, rolling forehand, the top-spin heavy, deep forehand and the flat, cross-court variety. It all set up a backhand finisher, giving the world No. 2 his third set point, which he took with a dropper.

In the second set, we saw the bad Wawrinka—a player who doesn't pose any serious threat to a man playing this well. He won one game.

Djokovic won one match today and has now 34 on the season, to go with zero losses. Tacchini must be thrilled. And adidas, who chose to sign Andy Murray instead of re-signing Djokovic in late 2009, must be cursing themselves.

—Ed McGrogan

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