Novak Djokovic: Semi-finals is anybody's game
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic finds the need to do some homework ahead of Italian Open clash v Ruud as clay is Norwegian's favourite surface; gets frustrated mid-way before registering 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over Koepfer
Top men's seed Novak Djokovic dropped a set before fighting off German qualifier Dominik Koepfer to reach the semi-finals of the Italian Open on Saturday. The World No. 1 needed more than two hours to see of the 97th-ranked German 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the final warm-up tournament on clay before the French Open. Two weeks after his US Open default for accidently hitting a line judge with ball, the Serb again showed signs of frustration, throwing his racquet after a lost service game, with shouts of anger resounding in the silence of the empty Central Court of Foro Italico.
Djokovic was broken four times before advancing to his 11th semi-final in Rome, where he reached the final nine times and won four titles. "Credit to [Dominik] for fighting back, but I have myself to blame for putting myself in a position to play a third set," said Djokovic. "I was a set and a break up and everything was looking great. I just wasn't managing to make that final shot, that final step to win in straights."
Djokovic, 33, next plays Norway's Casper Ruud who earlier battled past Italian fourth seed Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5). "Clay is definitely Casper's preferred surface. This is where he feels most comfortable. It's semi-finals and it is anybody's game. I'll do some homework and be ready for that one." said Djokovic. He is bidding for a record 36th Masters crown in the Italian Open, being currently tied on 35 with Spain's Rafael Nadal, the number two seed in Rome.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal swept aside Serb Dusan Lajovic to reach the quarter-finals on Friday as he warms up on clay before bidding to match the all-time Grand Slam record in Roland Garros. The World No. 2 has returned this week in Rome after a six-month Coronavirus-enforced break before attempting to match Roger Federer's all-time record of 20 Grand Slam titles in Paris. The 12-time French Open winner insisted he was not obsessed with matching Federer, absent until 2021 with a knee injury. "For me it's not an obsession at all," Nadal, 34, told journalists after brushing aside 25th-ranked Lajovic 6-1, 6-3.
Halep in semis
Top seed Simona Halep took the first semi-final berth on Saturday when Kazakh rival Yulia Putintseva retired during their match on Saturday. The World No. 2 was leading 6-2, 2-0 in the quarter-final clash on clay in Rome when Putintseva signalled that she was retiring after 45 minutes of play with a lower back injury. Putintseva had reached the quarter-finals of the recent hard court US Open, a tournament which Halep skipped because of COVID-19 concerns.
Champ Pliskova progresses
Defending champion Karolina Pliskova eased into the quarter-finals on Friday. World No. 4 Pliskova dominated 65th ranked Anna Blinkova 6-4, 6-3 in their third round match.
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