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Preview: After Historic Week, Djokovic Seeks Another Record vs. Tsitsipas

Tsitsipas bidding for third Masters 1000 title

Novak Djokovic has had a lot on the line all week at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, and nothing will change on Sunday in the Rome final against Stefanos Tsitsipas

The World No. 1 slipped to No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings entering the week before his quarter-final victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime moved him back to the top spot ahead of Daniil Medvedev. Djokovic then downed Casper Ruud in the semis to earn his 1,000th tour-level win and guarantee himself the top seed at Roland Garros

Playing in his fourth straight Rome final, and his 12th overall in the Italian capital, the Serbian now seeks a record-extending 38th ATP Masters 1000 title against Tsitsipas. The Greek is bidding for his second title of 2022 after he successfully defended his Monte Carlo crown in April.

In the doubles final, John Isner and Diego Schwartzman face third seeds and defending champions Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, with the American-Argentine pairing looking to become champions in their first event as a team. Isner is on the hunt for his third Masters 100 doubles title of the year with as many partners.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SER) vs. [4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)

The most recent ATP Head2Head meeting between these two men came last year in the Roland Garros final, when Djokovic battled back from two sets down to win his 20th Grand Slam title. Just prior to that, the Serbian engineered another comeback to defeat Tsitsipas in the Rome quarter-finals. He leads the overall series 6-2, including a perfect 4-0 on clay.

Djokovic is hot on the trail of his first title of 2022 as he begins to hit top form late in the European clay season. After an early exit in Monte Carlo, he reached the final in his native Belgrade and the semis in Madrid. He has not dropped a set this week in Rome, dominating Aslan Karatsev and Stan Wawrinka before winning closer-yet-still-comfortable contests against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Casper Ruud.

Tsitsipas survived a pair of match points against him to defeat Grigor Dimitrov in the Rome opening round and later scored a pair of comeback wins against Karen Khachanov (third round) and Alexander Zverev (semis). In between, he ended the run of home favourite Jannik Sinner in straight sets.

The Greek enters the final in scintillating form with a 14-2 record on the clay swing. He backed up his Monte Carlo title with a run to the Barcelona quarters and the Madrid semis and avenged a loss to Zverev in the Madrid with his win on Saturday. His 31 tour-level wins on the season lead the ATP Tour.

Tsitsipas is competing in his first Rome final, and enters the title match with a 9-4 record at the ATP Masters 1000 event.

“It’s one of those tournaments that I think has the most history in sport," he said upon reaching the final. "As you can see looking around the sides, one of the most beautiful stadiums. There’s a lot of history playing on these courts and you feel very proud that you made your way here and are able to participate in such a historically rich event.”

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Djokovic faces a quick turnaround after his evening win over Ruud, which was followed by an on-court celebration for his 1,000 wins, complete with a themed cake. He will look to extend his perfect record to 4-0 against Tsitsipas in finals.

"Another final against him at one of the biggest tournaments we have in the world," Djokovic previewed. "He's definitely in form. The last few years he's been [one of the] top two, three clay-court players. In general, top two, three in the world.

"But especially on the clay court, winning Monte Carlo, always reaching the final stages of the biggest events on clay. I can expect a big battle on the court, but I'm ready for it."

The Balance of Power and Steal & Conversion Insights provide an interesting backdrop for Sunday's match. The standout statistic from this week in Rome is Djokovic's 42 per cent steal rate, which describes how often the Serbian wins points from defence. That could prove crucial in the final, with Tsitsipas edging the Balance of Power battle between the pair, playing 25 per cent of his shots in attack this week. Both men are above average in how often they convert points from attacking positions.

Player  Balance of
Power
Conversion Steal
Djokovic 23% 71% 42%
Tsitsipas 25% 68% 33%
Tour Avg. 21% 65% 35% 

[3] Nikola Mektic (CRO) / Mate Pavic (CRO) vs. John Isner (USA) / Diego Schwartzman (ARG)

The Croatian defending champions knocked off home favourites Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini in Saturday's semis, their straight-sets wins continuing their perfect progress this week in Rome. The third seeds have won all eight sets played, getting pushed as far as a tie-break just once, by the Italians.

Mektic and Pavic won nine titles last season in their first campaign as a team, including three at the Masters 1000 level. They are seeking their first title of 2022 after losing a pair of Match Tie-breaks in the Dubai and Belgrade finals.

Isner teamed with Jack Sock to win Indian Wells and paired with Hubert Hurkacz for the Miami title before his Rome run with Schwartzman. The unlikely duo, dubbed #Isnerman, pairs the contrasting skills of the 6-foot-10 American and the 5-foot-7 Argentine. They survived three Match Tie-breaks to reach the final, including in the semis against Andrey Golubev and Maximo Gonzalez.