World number one Novak Djokovic won a record 36th Masters title by beating Diego Schwartzman in the Italian Open.
The Serb, playing in his first tournament since being disqualified from this month’s US Open, won 7-5 6-3 in the final to ensure he goes into next week’s French Open on a high.
Djokovic, 33, drew level with Rafael Nadal last month on the all-time list of Masters winners with his Western & Southern Open title.
“I’m super pleased,” Djokovic said.
“It was a great week, a very challenging week. I don’t think I played my best tennis this week but I think I found my best tennis in the decisive moments.
“I’m proud I managed to needed to find that fifth gear when I needed to.”
Watched by a crowd of about 1,000 socially distanced fans, Djokovic got off to a poor start against Argentine eighth seed Schwartzman, finding himself two breaks down at 3-0 as the rain fell in Rome.
But as the weather improved so did the Serb’s game as he quickly strung together a double break of his own before going on to carve out a set point at 5-4 on Schwartzman’s serve, which the world number 15 saved with a forehand winner.
Djokovic was denied on two more set points two games later before finally taking the opener after 71 minutes.
He again fell behind at the start of the second set but immediately broke back against Schwartzman, who beat favourite Nadal in the quarter-finals.
Two unforced errors from Schwartzman and a winner from Djokovic set up three break points in the eighth game, the first of which the Serb converted with a blistering forehand winner.
Djokovic then set up three match points after a series of winners that had Schwartzman scampering around the court, sealing a fifth Italian Open title on the third when the Argentine went wide.
It is Djokovic’s 81st career title and fourth of the year and sends him to Roland Garros with a spring in his step after his humiliating exit from the US Open, where he was defaulted for accidentally hitting a ball at a line judge.
The French Open starts on Sunday, with Nadal seeking a record-extending 13th men’s singles title in Paris. (BBC)