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Peaking in form at Roland Garros is ranked high on the list for Novak Djokovic right now, but when it comes to playing at the Foro Italico where he has taken four titles, it’s about more than tennis and tactics and fitness and all the things that can keep a struggling player up at night—it’s about a feeling.

And the feeling is what is motivating Djokovic ahead of second-round action at this year’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

“I just—overall, I feel so nice in Rome,” he told reporters on Monday after he walloped Alexandr Dolgopolov, dropping just four games in the process. “I think speaking Italian helps. But, also, I feel connected to the people here. You know, back in I think 2008 was one of the first big ones that I won, the first Rome title I had. And ever since then I had plenty of finals and titles and semifinals. So I've always kind of played well in Rome. And I think that's due to the connection and relationship I have with the people. They just give me great energy, and it motivates me to play well.”


Djokovic is hoping that the extra motivation can springboard him into his first quarterfinal of the year and even further. It’s rare that a player of Djokovic’s caliber finds himself with a pedestrian record of 7-6 on the season, but he can take a giant step in the right direction if he uses the energy and builds his confidence with a deep run at Rome.

“French Open is where I want to play my best tennis,” Djokovic said. “That's sort of, say, the big goal for this part of the season. But, you know, I feel like my game has been going in the right direction in the last couple tournaments.”

On Wednesday Djokovic will look to Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, and if it’s energy and connection he seeks he will most certainly get it while playing on one of tennis’s most vibrant and thriving courts—Court Pietrangeli. The sunken court is surrounded by statues and is first-come first-serve to grounds pass holders.

It will be a great opportunity for Djokovic—a player of the people—to get back to his roots.

“I feel like every day has been a progress,” Djokovic said. “You know, Rome has always been a place where I felt good, where I received a lot of support, where I played well, and had a lot of great results.”

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