Thu, 17 Jun 2021

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal to clash in Rome final

Field Level Media
16 May 2021, 06:55 GMT+10

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will renew their rivalry in Sunday's Internazionali BNL d'Italia final in Rome.

World No. 1 and top-seeded Djokovic of Serbia is a five-time champion in the clay-court Masters 1000 tournament, while Spain's Nadal, the World No. 3 and the No. 2 seed, is seeking his10th title.

The superstars have clashed five times previously in the Roman final, with Nadal winning in 2009, 2012 and 2019 and Djokovic lifting the trophy in 2011 and 2014.

Fatigue could play a factor for the 33-year-old Djokovic, who began a long day Saturday by rallying to defeat No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in a rain-delayed quarterfinal, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.

He followed up that three-hour, 18-minute marathon with another three-setter in the semifinals, outlasting Italy's Lorenzo Sonego 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 in two hours and 43 minutes.

"I don't have much time (to recover), I played a lot of tennis," Djokovic said. "Hopefully I'll have fresh legs because that's what I definitely will need. It's necessary in order to have a chance against Rafa.

"He also had some tough matches, obviously myself, with rain delays and everything that has happened today. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be fresh and I'll give it all."

Djokovic was up a set and a break against Sonego, who fought off two match points to force the tiebreak.

"I have only myself to blame for not closing the match in two sets," Djokovic said. "At the end of the day he is showing why he reached his first semifinals. He's a quality player. Not easy to play against him. Obviously he had the crowd behind him. It was an electric atmosphere out there on the court."

Sonego knocked off No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia in the quarterfinals 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

A victory on Sunday would give Nadal double-digit titles at his fourth event, along with the French Open (13), Barcelona (12) and Monte-Carlo (11).

Nadal improved to 12-0 in the semifinals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia with a 6-4, 6-4 victory Saturday against unseeded Reilly Opelka.

Nadal weathered 11 aces and broke Opelka's serve once in each set. He saved all four break points he faced in his first meeting with the 6-foot-11 American.

"I did the thing that I had to do today," Nadal said. "It is not an easy, beautiful match to play. ... You know you are going to have just a few options on your return and you know he can play very aggressive from the baseline. That is what happened at the beginning of the match. He had some options (for the) break and it was super important for me to save those moments."

Djokovic holds a 29-27 edge in the head-to-head series with Nadal, who won their most recent encounter in the 2020 French Open final.

--Field Level Media

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