Novak Djokovic believes Rafael Nadal is still the favourite to win the French Open despite his quarter-final exit at the Internazionali d'Italia.

Djokovic continued his stellar year by claiming the title in Rome thanks to a 7-5 6-3 win over Diego Schwartzman in the final on Monday.

The Serbian won his 36th ATP 1000 title, moving him ahead of Nadal into the outright lead, in the ideal preparation for the French Open starting on Sunday.

While Nadal was beaten by Schwartzman in the last eight in Rome, Djokovic said the 12-time French Open champion still deserved favouritism at Roland Garros.

"It's Nadal. Even though he lost this week I still think, and a lot of people will agree, he is the number one favourite," Djokovic told a news conference.

"The record that he has there, the history of his results, you just can't put anyone in front of him. But Diego showed Nadal is beatable on clay.

"The conditions that they played on, heavy clay, not much bounce, humid, night session, we are going to have that as well in Paris. Night session, under the lights, a little bit less bounce, I am pretty sure he does not prefer that to high bounce. I know he likes the high bounce, he likes hot and fast and warm conditions where he can use his spin a lot.

"Let's see. It's going to be interesting. Even though he's the number one favourite there are players who can win against him there.

"It's obviously best of five. You've got to be really fit to be able to achieve that."

A 17-time grand slam champion, Djokovic won the French Open in 2016, while he has lost three finals at the tournament, including two to Nadal.

But with the event rescheduled from a May start to September, Djokovic hopes the cooler weather will suit him in Paris.

"I cannot hope for Rafa not being in the final. I can hope for myself being in the finals and fighting for the trophy," he said.

"That's probably the player who has the highest chance of being in a final in the French Open and any tournament for that matter. If there is one tournament, that is Roland Garros and that's Rafa that you would bet on. But conditions will be different.

"I think I experienced something that might be the case in terms of conditions in Paris. Little bit of rain, wet court, clay, not much of a bounce, a bit cold. That's what I think people have been talking about from the Paris weather standpoint. I'm fine with those conditions."

Novak Djokovic secured a record-breaking triumph at the Internazionali d'Italia as he sealed a perfect response to his US Open woe.

The world number one defeated Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 in Monday's final, the same scoreline he had recorded to defeat Casper Ruud in the last four to reach a 10th final at the tournament.

Djokovic's 36th ATP Masters 1000 title – which moved him ahead of Rafael Nadal into the outright lead - and 81st overall on the ATP Tour was an ideal response after he was disqualified from the US Open.

That infamous default came after he struck the ball at a line judge during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta in New York this month.

After overcoming a nervous start against Schwartzman, victory gave Djokovic a fifth title in Rome, though it was his first since 2015 – having lost three finals and suffered a semi-final exit in the previous four years.

He will now bid to end the French Open dominance of Nadal, who stunningly went out to Schwartzman in the quarter-finals in Italy, when the upcoming last grand slam of the year begins in Paris.

Djokovic won the first set despite losing the first three games, recording 18 unforced errors and seeing a set point go begging at 5-4 when his Argentine opponent unleashed a superb cross-court forehand.

He had three more opportunities in Schwartzman's next service game, though, taking the last of those to move ahead.

A comeback looked to be on the cards when Djokovic sent a forehand wide to give Schwartzman a break in the first game of the second set.

But the Serbian, who converted five of his nine break points on the day, struck straight back and decisively moved 5-3 ahead later in the set with a fine backhand down the line.

After saving two match points, Schwartzman sent a shot wide on the next as Djokovic – who may have expected a different outcome when he fell a double break down to start the match – looked relieved as he raised his arms and congratulated his opponent on a superb tournament.

Novak Djokovic overcame a first-set scare to defeat Casper Ruud 7-5 6-3 and reach a 10th final at the Internazionali d'Italia.

The world number one remains on course for a record-breaking 36th ATP Masters 1000 title but was forced to save two set points in the opener against Norway's Ruud.

Djokovic will contest Monday's final against Denis Shapovalov or Diego Schwartzman, who stunned Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals to end the clay court maestro's similar designs on title 36 in the highest tier of ATP Tour events.

Ruud has impressed on clay this season, boasting a tour-leading 12 wins on the red stuff.

The 21-year-old was targeting a third final in four events on the surface and pocketed an early break before staying cool under pressure on the forehand side to repel two break-back points at 3-2.

It meant Ruud served for the set at 5-4 but he was unable to convert as Djokovic got back on terms with a fabulous drop shot winner.

The 17-time grand slam champion shut the door on Ruud three times during a 12-minute 11th game and the pressure told on his opponent, with a misfired forehand conceding the set.

Djokovic then put his foot down with some authoritative ground strokes to break for 4-2 in the second.

He continued to batter Ruud to the forehand corner and completed the victory in two hours and 11 minutes.

An imperious 30-1 record in 2020 must now be set alongside Djokovic's less-than-impressive recent efforts in the Rome showpiece.

Despite being a four-time winner in the Italian capital, defeats to Andy Murray, Alexander Zverev and Nadal mean he has finished as runner-up in three of the past four years.

Novak Djokovic was made to work for his place in an 11th Internazionali d'Italia semi-final as he overcame world number 91 Dominik Koepfer 6-3 4-6 6-3 in Rome.

Djokovic's embarrassing US Open default remains the only blemish on a record of 29 wins from 30 matches in 2020.

But he did not have things all his own way against an opponent playing his first main draw at a Masters 1000 event, wirth Djokovic having already been taken to three sets by fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic on Friday.

The world number one targeted Koepfer's backhand as he raced into a 4-0 lead, only for the 26-year-old German to claw back both breaks.

That set the tone for an up-and-down affair, with Djokovic reasserting himself with the forehand to deny Koepfer another game in the first set.

Djokovic had an early advantage in the second but Koepfer levelled up at 3-3, passing his illustrious foe with an eye-catching crosscourt backhand, and the underdog's fourth break of the contest set up a decider.

The relentless pace took a toll on Koepfer as he coughed up a love service game at 1-1 and Djokovic powered home from that point, landing a backhand drop volley to convert his second match point.

Rafael Nadal remained on course for a 10th Internazionali d'Italia title as he comfortably beat Dusan Lajovic to join top seed Novak Djokovic in the last eight.

Competing in his first tournament since February, Nadal has looked in fine form in Rome and followed up Wednesday's impressive 6-1 6-1 dismantling of Pablo Carreno Busta with another encouraging display, beating Lajovic 6-1 6-3.

Lajovic did show some fight during the early exchanges, responding well to a break of serve by breaking back – and to love.

But a marathon game, which included six instances of deuce, followed and Nadal prevailed to go 3-1 up, before going on to lose just four more points when closing out the opening set.

Lajovic looked set to lose with a whimper when successive breaks gave Nadal a 4-0 lead in the second, and although the former responded by winning three games on the bounce, he had given himself too much to do and the Spaniard cruised to victory.

Nadal was a class above for much of the contest, cleverly pulling the Serbian this way and that, and the world number two does not think he could be doing much better.

"I played I think a very positive level of tennis. Of course it needs to keep improving," Nadal said. "I need to keep working on a couple of things that are not coming automatically, but I can't ask for more.

"[It was] another great evening for me against another good opponent. Can't complain at all. Much better [than] what I expected.

"The first set was 6-1, but a super-tough beginning of the match. A lot of good points. I'm very happy, it's an important victory for me after such a long time. To start the tournament with these two victories is great news."

Earlier in the day, world number one Djokovic felt he was "pushed to the limit" by fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic as he won 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 to reach the last eight in the tournament for a 14th successive year.

It was the first time in more than a decade that the two friends had met on the court and Djokovic was made to work particularly hard, saving five of six break points over the course of the contest and fighting back from 4-1 down in the tie-break before ultimately outlasting his compatriot.

Djokovic's next opponent will be Dominik Koepfer, who dealt with Lorenzo Musetti in relatively comfortable fashion, winning 6-4 6-0.

Fourth seed Matteo Berrettini was pushed all the way by fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia to secure his spot in the next round, coming through a tense 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-1) to set up a meeting with Casper Ruud, who beat Marin Cilic 6-2 7-6 (8-6).

Eighth seed Diego Schwartzman was given a run for his money by Poland's Hubert Hurkacz, but the Argentinian came from behind to prevail 3-6 6-2 6-4.

He will be up next for Nadal, while the other quarter-final will be contested between Grigor Dimitrov and Denis Shapovalov, both of whom came through three-setters on Friday.

Novak Djokovic said he was "pushed to the limit" by fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic before booking a quarter-final place at the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome.

The world number one advanced to the last eight for a 14th straight year at the tournament with a 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 victory over Krajinovic.

Djokovic had not faced Krajinovic in more than a decade and said it was difficult facing off against one of his closest friends.

"It was one of the longest sets of my career," he said of the first set which lasted an hour and 27 minutes. "It is never easy to play against one of your best friends of so many years.

"We have only played 10 years ago in Serbia and he has changed as a person and as a player. It is rare that we have not played against each other in this decade. We trained several times together and we have played the Davis Cup together; it was good to play against him.

"Janko Tipsarevic [Krajinovic's coach], a Serbian tennis legend, is doing a great job with him. He's in the top 30; I know he's in shape.

"I did not start the game as I wanted. I made many unforced errors, but we must congratulate him for pushing me to the limit."

Djokovic saved five of six break points to seal the win after two hours and seven minutes, setting up a quarter-final clash with Dominik Koepfer.

He attacked Krajinovic's forehand with gusto and delivered a string of drop shots throughout the first set, but that game plan did not come off when holding two set points at 5-4 on his opponent's serve.

Krajinovic then started the tie-break strongly, storming into a 4-1 lead, before Djokovic powered back and took advantage of an error from his opponent to seal the set at the fifth time of asking.

Djokovic wasted little time moving through the gears at the start of the second set, driving forehands down the line to break serve at 1-1. He maintained his advantage to reach 5-3 before breaking serve again to seal the win.

Dusan Lajovic set up a meeting with Rafael Nadal as a host of seeds and big names fell by the wayside at the Internazionali d'Italia on Thursday.

Neither Novak Djokovic nor Nadal was in action after scoring victories a day earlier, but there was no shortage of shocks.

Home hopeful and seventh seed Fabio Fognini was among those to lose, going down 7-5 7-6 (7-4) to Ugo Humbert.

The match saw a remarkable 11 breaks of serve, including the first six games of the opener before Fognini was broken to love, then losing an early advantage in the second-set tie-break.

He was joined in making an early exit by US Open quarter-finalist Andrey Rublev.

Beaten by brilliant Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev in the last eight at Flushing Meadows, Rublev lost in three sets to Hubert Hurkacz on this occasion.

Fifth seed Gael Monfils succumbed 6-2 6-4 to qualifier Dominik Koepfer, while Milos Raonic fell to Lajovic as the Serbian secured the Nadal clash, landing a 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-2 success.

Kei Nishikori also tumbled out as he struggles to regain his rhythm on the ATP Tour.

The former world number four was appearing in just his second tournament of the year due to an elbow injury and then the coronavirus pandemic but could not get past Lorenzo Musetti.

Musetti, an 18-year-old qualifier, had already dumped out Stan Wawrinka and said after his 6-3 6-4 success: "I think I played really smart. It was different to Wawrinka.

"They are great champions and I am really happy right now."

He was the only Italian man to win, though, with Casper Ruud seeing off Lorenzo Sonego.

Denis Shapovalov had a straightforward victory and Diego Schwartzman also headed through in two sets.

Rafael Nadal showed few signs of rust as he swept aside the challenge of Pablo Carreno Busta at the Internazionali d'Italia.

Playing his first match since winning the Mexican Open on February 29 before the sport was shut down, Nadal defeated his fellow Spaniard 6-1 6-1 in just 73 minutes.

It was an emphatic return to action against Carreno Busta, who took Alexander Zverev to five sets after a run to the US Open semi-finals last week.  

World number two Nadal will meet either Milos Raonic or Dusan Lajovic in the last 16.

Both players survived break-point opportunities in their opening service games, before Nadal reeled off five straight games to win the opener.

Carreno Busta stopped the rot with a hold to open the second set but was otherwise powerless to stop Nadal, who won every game from there.

Despite a first-serve percentage of just 49, Nadal only faced one break point in the contest as he beat Carreno Busta for the sixth straight meeting.

Nadal's win on Wednesday came after Novak Djokovic showed little sign of being affected by his US Open default in a 6-3 6-2 win over Salvatore Caruso.

The standout result of the day saw teenage home hope Jannik Sinner record a superb win over third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, triumphing 6-1 6-7 (9-11) 6-2 for just the second top-10 win of his career.

Matteo Berrettini was another Italian to win in Rome as he beat Federico Coria in straight sets, while Marin Cilic defeated sixth seed David Goffin 6-2 6-2.

Novak Djokovic showed little sign of being affected by his US Open default as he bounced back to defeat Salvatore Caruso at the Internazionali d'Italia.

Top seed Djokovic had not played since he was disqualified at Flushing Meadows earlier this month after hitting a line judge with the ball in the fourth round against Pablo Carreno Busta, his first defeat of the season.

But he returned to action in typically composed fashion in Italy, dispatching world number 87 Caruso 6-3 6-2.

Djokovic, who received a bye for round one, took just 84 minutes to claim the victory and will face Mario Cecchinato or Filip Krajinovic in the last 16.

The four-time Rome champion did not face a single break point throughout Wednesday's encounter, converting three of the eight Caruso offered up.

Having clinched the opening set at the second time of asking, Djokovic crucially nosed himself ahead in the second when he broke Caruso in the third game.

At one point during the 11-minute game, Djokovic complained about noise from the mainly empty stands. While fans are not allowed, coaches and tournament officials were in attendance.

"Which one?" the umpire replied, to which a frustrated Djokovic responded: "Which one? There's 10 people in the stands."

However, unlike in New York, Djokovic this time kept a lid on his temper and had the match all but won when he broke the Italian again to make it 5-2, the world number one then duly wrapping up victory with his first match point.  

Rafael Nadal said Dominic Thiem deserved to win the US Open title in New York.

Thiem claimed his maiden major title with a dramatic five-set victory over Alexander Zverev in the final at Flushing Meadows on Sunday.

The Austrian finally broke through after losing three grand slam finals, including two to Nadal at the French Open.

Nadal praised Thiem for his success, which came with the Spaniard and Roger Federer not in the draw and with Novak Djokovic having defaulted in the fourth round.

"I'm happy for Dominic. If somebody deserved to win a big title it's him," he said. 

"A super hard worker, very focused on his goals, a good person, a good human being. He deserved it.

"Sorry to Sascha [Zverev], he was close but in some ways I think even though Sascha played a great final, I think the road to the final from Dominic had been a little bit more solid.

"So in some ways he deserved the title and Sascha will have more chances in the future. But after a lot of years of hard work, I think Dominic deserved it. I'm happy for him."

Nadal is set to face Pablo Carreno Busta at the Internazionali d'Italia in his first match since the ATP Tour season resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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