World no.1 Novak Djokovic will have the opportunity to defend his Internazionali BNL d’Italia title after recovering from a set down to beat no.6 seed Kei Nishikori 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in three hours and two minutes on Saturday in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament in Rome.
The 28-year-old Belgrade native improved to a 37-2 match record on the season.
Nole received a medical timeout for a cut on his left ankle after the very first game. Nishikori took advantage of the top seed’s compromised movement. He started the match in fine form and broke the Serb twice in the first set, in the third and seventh games, before closing out a one-set lead in 43 minutes.
Djokovic raised his level and responded with a late break in the second set, converting his 10th break point opportunity to force a decider.
With the momentum on his side, Novak grabbed a break in the second game of the third set. He had two break points for 5-1, but Nishikori battled hard, throwing everything in his arsenal at the defending champion to hold and break back for 4-all. Kei saved a match point at 5-4 and secured a tie-break. He was up 3-1, but Djokovic won five straight points for 6-3. The Japanese fought off two additional match points, but was unable to survive the fourth.
The pair met for the 11th time with Novak now leading their ATP Head2Head series 9-2.
“One point was the difference,” said Djokovic. “Today it was 112 to 111 points won. At this level, this particular match is a great example of how it can be decided, in clutch moments and very few shots. Sometimes the luck can go your way, sometimes not. But the only thing you can do is influence your own capabilities on the court and your own focus and things that you can do best.”
Match statistics: aces (4-4), double faults (2-2), winners (32-39), unforced errors (34-34), total points won (112-111).
In a repeat of the recent Mutua Madrid Open final, Novak will take on first-time Rome finalist Andy Murray (23-9 H2H), after the second-seeded Brit rolled past Lucas Pouille (FRA, LL) 6-2, 6-1 earlier in the day.
On Sunday at 17:00 CET, Djokovic will contest his fourth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final of the year and 42nd career final at the Masters 1000 level. The Serbian ace will be aiming to win his third consecutive Rome title and fifth overall (2008, ’11, ’14-15).
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