Rome, May 15 (IANS) Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic raised his game after trailing 4-6, 1-2 on Friday to earn a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 comeback victory against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rain-hit quarter-final match of the Italian Open on Saturday.
Djokovic will take on Italian Lorenzo Sonego — who upset seventh seed Russian Andrey Rublev — for a place in the final. Sonego recovered from a set down to defeat the Monte-Carlo runner-up 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
The top seed Serbian returned to court on Saturday morning with Tsitsipas serving at 6-4, 2-1, and he broke serve in two of his opening five return games to force a decider. Djokovic then twice recovered from a break down in the decider to reach the final-four in Rome for the eighth straight year.
“There are many things to say about today or yesterday’s match. It kind of felt like we played two matches… The one yesterday, where he was the better player. He started better today also. I managed to somehow to hold my nerves [and] break his serve in the important moments in the second and third sets,” Djokovic said after the match.
“The support of the crowd was amazing. It was great to play in front of a crowd. [It was a] fantastic atmosphere. It was a bit of luck, a bit of mental strength and the right tactics at the right time. One shot, not even a point, one shot really decided the winner today. I am just glad to be on the better side.”
This is Djokovic’s fourth straight ATP head-to-head triumph against Tsitsipas. The world No. 1 owns a 5-2 advantage against the 22-year-old, which includes an unbeaten 3-0 record on clay.
Tsitsipas made a strong start after the resumption of play to move into a 4-2 lead in the second set. But
Djokovic soon raised his level in return games. The defending champion won two marathon games on Tsitsipas’ serve to push the match to a deciding set. Across return games at 4-3 and 6-5, Djokovic earned a combined nine break points. The 18-time Grand Slam champion used his forehand to break through on both occasions, ripping winners up the line to level the match.
“[I had to dig] very deep. Without a doubt, until the last shot I didn’t know whether I was going to win but I believed that I could,” Djokovic said.