Stellar semi-final line up in store on Saturday

Kiki Bertens will face Johanna Konta and Rafael Nadal will take on Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first two semi-finals on Saturday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

No. 6 seed Bertens, who benefitted from a rest day on Friday after her quarter-final opponent, Naomi Osaka, withdrew from their encounter due to a right hand injury, will be bidding for her ninth straight victory when she faces Konta in the opening match on Court Centrale.

Both players are enjoying successful clay court seasons, Bertens lifted the trophy in Madrid last weekend while Konta reached the final at Rabat earlier this month and has notched up some notable victories this week, including upsetting Grand Slam champions Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams.

“She [Bertens] is coming off a lot of big wins, big tournament wins, career-high ranking. She’s going to be playing with a lot of trust in what she does out there. That always makes any player that much more difficult to play and dangerous to play. There’s less of a letdown for them. Just looking forward to really playing a good match against her,” said Konta.

Defending champion Nadal will be looking to get revenge over Tsitsipas who defeated him for the first time in the semi-finals at Madrid last week. The No. 8 seed also didn’t play on Friday, advancing to the final four without stepping on the court after Roger Federer pulled out of the tournament with a right leg injury.

Tsitsipas is not the only Greek to be playing at the Foro Italico on Saturday, his compatriot Maria Sakkari is also in semi-final action on Court Centrale. The qualifier, who leads the Tour together with Bertens for clay court victories in 2019 with 12, will take on No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova, who she beat in their only previous encounter here in the third round last year, for a place in the final.

The evening match will see Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, who is making his debut in a Masters 100 semi-final, take on world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Schwartzman has yet to record a victory over the top seed but extended him to five sets in their only previous clay court meeting at 2017 Roland Garros.