Double Digits: Djokovic Advances To 10th Rome Final
World No. 1 to face Schwartzman or Shapovalov for trophy
Novak Djokovic moved one win away from a record-breaking 36th ATP Masters 1000 trophy on Sunday with a 7-5, 6-3 victory against Casper Ruud in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-finals.
The World No. 1 saved two set points in the first set and fired 12 aces to improve to 10-1 in Rome semi-finals. Djokovic will attempt to break a tie with fellow 35-time Masters 1000 champion Rafael Nadal when he faces Diego Schwartzman or Denis Shapovalov in the championship match on Monday.
“It is super important [to win the title]. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here,” said Djokovic on court after his win. “I don’t take anything for granted, even after 15 years on the Tour, I still enjoy it.
“I still have a hunger for the titles and putting myself in a position to fight for the title is exactly where I want to be.”
Most ATP Masters 1000 Titles
Djokovic equalled Nadal’s record Masters 1000 title haul by completing his second Career Golden Masters at the Western & Southern Open last month. Djokovic is a four-time champion in Rome.
The Serbian is now 30-1 in 2020. Only in 2011, when he won his opening 41 matches of the year, has Djokovic reached 30 victories quicker.
Djokovic’s Best Season Starts (After 31 Matches)
The key moment of the match came when Ruud held two set points when serving for the first set at 5-4, 40/15. Djokovic ripped a crosscourt backhand to save the first set point and reached deuce after carving a backhand drop shot. The Serbian never looked back to claim victory in his first ATP Head2Head contest against the Norwegian.
Djokovic will attempt to triumph at the Foro Italico for the first time since 2015 on Monday. The 33-year-old has finished as runner-up at the event in three of the past four years, losing to Andy Murray (2016), Alexander Zverev (2017) and Nadal (2019) in finals.
The five-time year-end No. 1 owns a combined 9-0 ATP Head2Head record against potential final opponents Schwartzman and Shapovalov. Djokovic is unbeaten in five matches against Shapovalov and owns a 4-0 record against Schwartzman. The Serbian has beaten each player once at this event.
“Both guys are in tremendous form,” said Djokovic. “Diego played the match of his life last night and he also is most comfortable on clay. Denis has improved a lot on clay over the past few years and he has got a powerful game… Whatever comes my way, I will be ready and hopefully I can get my hands on the trophy.”
Ruud was attempting to reach his third final in four clay events this year. The World No. 34 owns a tour-leading 12 wins on the surface this season (12-3). Ruud was one of the form players of February’s ‘Golden Swing’, capturing his maiden ATP Tour crown at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires and finishing as a runner-up in Santiago.
The 21-year-old made a fast start on Centrale, anticipating Djokovic’s tactics and covering the court with great speed to gain an early break. The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier played with confidence on his forehand and saved two break points at 3-2, but he failed to convert two set points when serving for the set at 5-4. Djokovic increased his aggression on his backhand side and landed a drop shot winner, a tactic he has used throughout the week, before earning his first break of the match.
Djokovic served well under pressure to save three break points in a 12-minute game at 5-5 and, with added confidence, attacked his opponent’s backhand to reach set point in the following game. At that moment, Ruud attempted to strike his 13th forehand winner of the set, but misfired on his favoured shot to hand Djokovic a one-set lead.
Djokovic continued to serve with power and accuracy to escape danger early in the second set and gained the first break at 3-2 with powerful groundstrokes. The 17-time Grand Slam champion struck three consecutive winners into Ruud’s forehand corner and capitalised on a Ruud forehand error to move two games from victory. Djokovic earned success driving his backhand up the line in the closing stages and booked his place in the final when Ruud failed to control a backhand return.
”It was a tough two-setter today. It was over two hours for two sets,” said Djokovic. “I definitely had to work hard for most of the points and it was really anybody’s game in the first set… It was really windy.
“To be honest, it was probably the windiest day since we arrived to Rome and it was quite tough to handle that. But the second set was much better, I got used to it and started swinging through the ball better.”