Djokovic prevails over Ruud to reach 10th Rome final

Novak Djokovic survived a tough test against Casper Ruud 7-5 6-3 to reach his 10th Internazionali BNL d’Italia final in windy conditions on Sunday at the Foro Italico.

The world No.1 had his work cut out from start to finish against the Norwegian who played some impressive tennis on his debut in a Masters-1000 semi-final.

Ruud made a quick, confident start to the match and appeared unfazed by the occasion or by his opponent. Playing with an enormous amount of spin off both wings the world No.34 secured an early break to lead 2-1 and then applied yet more pressure in the sixth game, holding two break points as he forced his opponent to come up with the goods. Djokovic struggled with his forehand but his serve was working well, several aces helping him out of the tricky 12-minute game.

The Serb displayed his trademark resilience as the set neared its conclusion, targeting Ruud’s backhand and producing several dropshots helped him to win four games on the trot and save two set points to take a pulsating opener and gain the advantage.

Djokovic increased his level in the second set as more brutal battles ensued. Several close games occurred but the top seed was outstanding under pressure, producing some clutch serving, swinging through the ball better and painting the lines with his forehand as he secured the only break of the set in the sixth game.

Ruud demonstrated his fighting spirit, refusing to back down and saving two match points in the eighth game to make his opponent serve it out. Djokovic did just that in the next game, taking the straight sets victory after two hours 12 minutes to book his spot in his 52nd Masters-1000 final.

“Today was probably the windiest conditions that we had this week, and so definitely it was challenging for both of us to really find the good timing, for me especially in the first set. I was serving well, but he was a better player from back of the court until those set points that he had on 5-4. You know, I played a couple of really good points, managed to break his serve. Then whenever I needed to get myself out of trouble, I had first serve and aced him quite a few times. So I’m very pleased with that part of my game,” said Djokovic.

“I went out, played a good beginning of the match and good first set, of course. I was trying to think that it wasn’t Djokovic on the other side, because then you tend to maybe be a little passive and try to think too much about it. I think I did that good. I played still a very good first set, you know, in my opinion. I was close to winning it with two set points. But, you know, once again, he shows why he’s such a good player and a good champion. He’s always clutch on the big points,” said Ruud.

The four-time Italian Open champion will face either No.8 seed Diego Schwartzman or No.12 sed Denis Shapovalov in Monday’s final.