Reigning champion Novak Djokovic set a stellar final with Rafael Nadal at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
On Saturday, the five-time Rome champion ended home-court hero Lorenzo Sonego’s stunning run in a semi-final thriller to book a championship meeting on Sunday with world No. 3 at Foro Italico.
Novak Djokovic rallied past Sonego with a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory after two hours and 43 minutes.
The Belgrade native will play his 11th Italian Open final, attempting to win a sixth title at the event, when he meets his ultimate opponent, Rafael Nadal, for the ninth time on Roman soil.
Earlier in the day, the Spaniard toppled Reilly Opelka in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 after one hour and 32 minutes to reach his first final in an ATP Masters 1000 this year.
On Sunday, the second seed will be seeking to claim his 10th title in the Eternal City.
Djokovic on Saturday
World No. 1 Djokovic had to play two matches in one day, as the quarter-final encounter with 2021 Monte Carlo Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas was rain-delayed on several occasions Friday, to resume early on Saturday with the latter leading by a set and a break 6-4, 2-1 over the top seed.
After three hours and 16 minutes showcasing his best tennis, the Serbian player prevailed over world No. 5 in three sets 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 securing a spot in the last four.
Four hours after producing an impressive performance against the Greek player, the 33-year-old hit the court once again to play Italy’s Sonego, contesting the first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final of his career.
Djokovic and Sonego had met once in 2020 at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, with the two-time ATP titlist taking a 6-2, 6-1 win.
Djokovic vs. Sonego
The 18-time Grand Slam champion got off to a perfect start taking the opening set 6-3.
Cheered by the home crowd, the 2021 Sardegna Open champion raised his game and fought like a gladiator in the Campo Centrale, saving two match points to steal the second set 7-6 (5), forcing a decider.
But the world No. 33 could not halt the nine-time Australian Open champion, who clinched the third set 6-2, earning an epic victory.
In a post-match interview, Djokovic said: “I have only myself to blame for not closing the match in two sets.
“At the end of the day, he is showing why he reached his first [ATP Masters 1000] semi-finals. He is a quality player.”
En route to the final stages of his home tournament, the 26-year-old moved past French player Gael Monfils 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, and countryman Gianluca Mager 6-4, 6-4.
Playing the third round of the competition, the Italian player stunned world No. 4 Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), to then edged seventh seed Andrey Rublev 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 becoming the first Italian in Rome to advance to the semi-finals since Filippo Volandri in 2007.
Djokovic outlasted Taylor Fritz 6-3, 7-6 (5), and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-1 in the early stages of the event.
Nadal in Rome
En route to the final, Spain’s number one racquet overcame Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-4, won a 3-hour thrilling contest with Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, and halted a run of three defeats to world No. 6 Alexander Zverev with a 6-3 6-4 victory on Friday.
Speaking about the final, Djokovic commented: “I don’t have much time [to recover], I played a lot of tennis.
“Hopefully I’ll have fresh legs because that is what I definitely will need. It is necessary in order to have a chance against Rafa.”
Djokovic and Nadal met in Rome on eight previous occasions; the Spaniard leads the score 5-3.