Rome Masters: Novak Djokovic produces epic comeback to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas
World No 1 Novak Djokovic comes from a set and a break behind to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas and reach the semi-finals of the Rome Masters; Serbian will face home hope Lorenzo Sonego for a place in the final later on Saturday with Rafael Nadal taking on Reilly Opelka
Last Updated: 15/05/21 2:23pm
Novak Djokovic produced an epic comeback as he rallied from the brink of defeat to conquer Stefanos Tsitsipas and reach the semi-finals of the Rome Masters.
Rain had curtailed their clash on Friday with Djokovic a set and a break behind, but despite also twice going a break down in the decider, the world No 1 rallied for a stunning 4-6 7-5 7-5 victory.
"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 in his post-match interview.
"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."
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Tsitsipas had good cause to be confident as he resumed 2-1 in front on Saturday morning, but Djokovic broke back in the eighth game to level the set at 4-4. He was still clearly struggling on his serve and had to fend off three break points in the following game, before going on to claim the decisive break himself and level the match at one set all.
Djokovic's frustrations continued in the decider as he was broken in the third game of the set, and he subsequently received a warning for slamming his racket into the court surface.
Tsitsipas consolidated his break only for a backhand error to gift Djokovic parity in the sixth game of the set, but the Greek missed his chance when he broke his opponent again and failed to serve out for the match at 5-4.
Instead, it was the favourite who seized his second chance, breaking his opponent twice in succession to book his place in the tournament's last four for the 12th time.
ATP Masters 1000 semi-finals
Rafael Nadal - 75 (11-0 at Rome Masters)
Novak Djokovic - 70 (10-1 at Rome Masters)
Reilly Opelka - 1
Lorenzo Sonego - 1
Nadal and Djokovic have reached the most ATP Masters 1000 semi-finals since the series started in 1990 and the most Rome semi-finals in the Open Era (since 1968)
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"[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.
"You can always fight, give your best and let God decide who takes the win. [Stefanos] was playing well. He is in fantastic shape, obviously winning Monte Carlo and coming off of finals in Barcelona. I am just really, really glad to overcome this challenge. It was probably the toughest match of the year for me so far."
Djokovic will return to the court later on Saturday to take on Italian Lorenzo Sonego, who upset seventh-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 3-6 6-4 6-3, for a place in Sunday's final.
Sonego, who became the first Italian to reach the semi-finals of the tournament since Filippo Volandri in 2007, will be aiming to become the first home finalist in the capital since Adriano Panatta in 1978.
In the other men's semi-final, nine-time winner of the event Rafael Nadal faces huge-serving American Reilly Opelka.
In the women's tournament, French Open champion Iga Swiatek came through against two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina 6-2 7-5 to set up a semi-final date with 17-year-old American Coco Gauff.
Czech Karolina Pliskova takes on Croatian Petra Martic in the other semi-final.