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Novak Djokovic admits the form of Rafael Nadal has taken him by surprise as he comfortably beat David Ferrer to make the Rome final.
The Serbian world number one beat the Spaniard 64 64 to make his sixth final at the Foro Italico having already won three times.
His rival Nadal was knocked out at the quarter-final stage on Friday, has not won a clay court title this year and the upcoming French Open appears to be a more wide open affair this time around.
“I think it surprised everybody considering his records on clay court in his entire career,” said Djokovic. “I don’t think it has happened in the last 10 years that he has not won at least one clay-court tournament prior to Roland Garros. He is human as well and does have his periods when doesn’t feel that confident on the court when he’s not winning.
“This is the surface where he likes to play on, let’s see how he bounces back in the Roland Garros, the most successful tournament that he has ever played in his career. You can always expect him to play his best there in Paris, it’s where he peaks and everybody wants to peak.
“If you enter the Roland Garros without a title behind you it’s different mentally but he’s still one of the fittest guys on tour.”
Djokovic had been taken to three sets on each of his previous three matches this week so to achieve victory in straight sets pleased him greatly.
“It’s very encouraging when you haven’t lost a serve against one of the best server of the tournament,” he said. “He’s a great competitor, he always makes you play an extra ball. I did face a couple of break point, especially in the second set where maybe I was a little bit fortunate. I just found the way to dig my way through.
“This was definitely the best match so far. My performance is satisfying and it is giving me enough reasons for me that I can play at these levels and maybe be better tomorrow.”
Ferrer admitted taking on the world’s best, even on his preferred clay court surface, was always going to be a difficult proposition.
“It was a tough one but I did a good game,” he said. “I served very good this week and I had a good percentage. But I didn’t make it, with the number one of the world it is very difficult to win.”