He has defeated World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in back-to-back tournaments ON CLAY thus becoming the first man ever to beat Rafa TWICE ON CLAY. Last week Djokovic beat Nadal in the Final at the Madrid Open (7-5, 6-4) and today he again bested Rafa (6-4, 6-4) in the Final of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia or Italian Open. Djokovic is now within inches of taking over the No. 1 ranking from Nadal as only 405 ranking points now separate the two. Nadal has 12,070 points to Djokovic's 11,665. So "The Battle for No. 1" should and will be decided in the "granddaddy" of the clay-court season, the upcoming French Open.
What a year so far for the 23-year old Serbian!
On the women's side--
Kudos to former World No. 1 and current World No. 8 Maria Sharapova on winning the Italian Open title (6-2, 6-4) over World No. 7 Samantha Stosur. This was Sharapova's first title in over a year and her biggest win on clay. Since her long layoff after shoulder surgery in October 2008 Sharapova has struggled to regain her dominant form which took her to the top of the rankings on 4 different occasions from August 2005 to May 2008. Her progress has been slow and at times frustrating but she has quietly worked her way back into the Top 10. And with the win over Stosur she will move up to No. 7 in the world, which is her highest ranking since her comeback.
During the trophy presentation, Sharapova said, "This is just the beginning of many things to come. This is just the start of everything."
Confidence is always good when heading to a Grand Slam tournament. With (both) Venus and Serena Williams out with tough injuries and World No. 2 Kim Clijsters still doubtful, I wouldn't count Sharapova out at Roland Garros. That's for sure.