Djokovic Clinches Comeback Tsitsipas Win In Rome

Serbian to meet Sonego in semi-finals
May 15, 2021
Novak Djokovic owns a 5-2 ATP Head2Head record against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
AFP/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic owns a 5-2 ATP Head2Head record against Stefanos Tsitsipas. By ATP Staff

After heading to sleep trailing by a set and a break in his Internazionali BNL d'Italia quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Novak Djokovic raised his game on Saturday to earn a memorable 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 comeback victory against the Greek.

The top seed returned to the court on Saturday morning with Tsitsipas serving at 6-4, 2-1, and he broke serve in two of his opening five return games to force a decider. Rain suspended play twice on Friday, but there was no denying Djokovic on Saturday. The Serbian twice recovered from a break down in the decider to reach the final four in Rome for the eighth straight year (2014-’21).

“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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This is Djokovic’s fourth straight ATP Head2Head triumph against Tsitsipas. The World No. 1 owns a 5-2 advantage against the 22-year-old, which includes an unbeaten 3-0 record on clay.

Tsitsipas made a strong start after the resumption of play to move into a 4-2 lead in the second set. But Djokovic soon raised his level in return games. The defending champion won two marathon games on Tsitsipas’ serve to push the match to a deciding set. Across return games at 4-3 and 6-5, Djokovic earned a combined nine break points. The 18-time Grand Slam champion used his forehand to break through on both occasions, ripping winners up the line to level the match.

Tsitsipas twice led by a break in the deciding set and served for the match at 5-4, but Djokovic rallied on both occasions to take a 6-5 lead. As Tsitsipas served to force a final-set tie-break, the World No. 1 fired a backhand winner down the line and played with consistent depth to extract crucial Tsitsipas errors.

“[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.”

Later today Djokovic will play Italian Lorenzo Sonego, who upset seventh-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev, for a place in the championship match. Sonego recovered from a set down to defeat the Monte-Carlo runner-up 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Grand Stand Arena.

Tsitsipas was aiming to earn his second victory against a World No. 1. The 2019 Rome semi-finalist beat Djokovic when the Serbian was ranked No. 1 at the 2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters.

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