WATCH: When 20-year-old Novak Djokovic sealed the 2008 Italian Open title
Novak Djokovic is gunning for a seventh Italian Open crown this year, but let’s rewind back to 2008 when it all started to click for young Serbian as he won his maiden title in Rome.
Having officially made his ATP Tour debut in 2004, Djokovic enjoyed his breakthrough season two years later as he won his first two titles, but it wasn’t until 2008 when he really announced his arrival on the big stage.
Aged just 20, Djokovic won his first Grand Slam at the 2008 Australian Open and he then followed it up by winning the Indian Wells Open.
But the big question was “could he do it at an ATP Masters 1000 event on clay?”
The answer was a clear a clear “yes” as he was the last man standing at Foro Italico, coming from behind to defeat Stan Wawrinka 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in just over two hours.
He had a favourable draw with big guns Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer all falling by the way side early on, but he still did what he had to do to get the better of Steve Darcis, Igor Andreev, Nicolas Almagro and Radek Stepanek to set up a final against Wawrinka – who had only one title to his name at the time.
The key moment in the deciding set came in the opening game as Djokovic broke Wawrinka’s serve after the Swiss made an error on h is backhand following a 20-shot rally.
The final blow came when Djokovic hit a brilliant forehand in the corner – past the outstretched racket of Wawrinka.
“I’m very happy that I managed to win on this surface because now I have more confidence approaching the big events on this surface and other surfaces as well,” Djokovic said after the win.
“This year has been like a dream for me, but I want to continue, I want to finish the year as the number one in the race.”
He didn’t quite finish the year as No 1 in the race as he was third behind Federer and Nadal and he fell away during the 2009 season and 2010 seasons.
But both Djokovic and Wawrinka have come a long way since then as the former has of course gone on to win 22 Grand Slam titles, 38 ATP Masters trophies – including six in Rome – and has spent a record 385 weeks at No 1 in the ATP Rankings.
Wawrinka, meanwhile, has won three Grand Slams and reached a career-high of No 3.
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