Djokovic rues Federer, Nadal claycourt domination
Rome: World number two Novak Djokovic insisted he would be one of the best claycourt players in the world, if only it were not for Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
The Serbian 22-year-old continued his comfortable progression at the ATP Rome Masters 1000 with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Thomaz Bellucci to reach the quarter-finals, where he will play sixth seed Fernando Verdasco.
It continued a fine run that Djokovic has enjoyed in Rome where he lifted the title in 2008 and also reached last year`s final.
And while he is not considered a clay specialist, Djokovic said that`s only because there are two other players out there who are outstanding on the surface.
"I don`t think I have had decent result, I think I have had great results in the past couple of years (on clay), especially in 2009 when I won a couple of events," he said.
"I played the final (here) against Rafa and in the French Open I played twice the semi-finals and quarters and I lost all of those to Nadal.”
"If I didn`t have such strong opponents as Nadal and Federer, I would probably have been one of the best players in the world on this surface in the last couple of years. That is a fact.”
"I grew up on this surface and I have had a lot of successes, and I just feel comfortable playing lately.”
"I am aware that it needs a lot of physical energy and you just have to be fit to keep on with the long rallies because it`s a slow surface and it makes you run more.”
"You need to be dedicated more to the point than on other surfaces. I think I`m doing quite a good job and I have a good game going.”
"I produce a lot of spin from the forehand. In Rome, all the conditions here are a bit faster than the other surfaces which gives me more freedom to perform."
Next up for Djokovic is a player who spanked him 6-2, 6-2 when last they met in Monte Carlo two weeks ago, also on clay.
But the Serb insists he simply had a bad day at the office while he was struggling with his serve.
But he acknowledges that the 26-year-old Verdasco is a much improved prospect these days.
"I think he`s being more aggressive and definitely his backhand is not a big disadvantage in his game (any more) so he`s improved there and as I said, he makes less mistakes (than before)," said Djokovic.
"Of course, his serve has always been a weapon (as he`s left-handed). He is a complete player but I know the way I should play against him here.”
"So if I perform the way I know how to perform I`ll have a very good chance of winning."