Novak Djokovic takes 29 victories over rival Rafael Nadal into a Sunday final at the Rome Masters after nullifying a massive semi-final threat from Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2..
Djokovic was tested after playing five sets of tennis on the same day, with his quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas held over due to rain after the pair had played a set and three games a day earlier.
The Serb top seed finished off that contest from a set and a break down, winning 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.
A few hours later he was back on Campo Centrale facing Italian Sonego, the overwhelming crowd favourite of fans allowed into the Foro Italico set at 25 per cent of capacity.
The outsider who beat Djokovic last autumn in Vienna proved a true threat in a 91-minute second set, saving two Djokovic match points in the 12th game of the second set, and breaking the top seed to force a tiebreaker.
The home favourite continued his heroics by saving two more potential Djokovic match-winners before smashing an overhead to level at a set apiece.
Djokovic finally closed it down in a third set which began as he faced three break points on his serve but survived, finally taking just control of Sonego with breaks in the fourth and final games.
The epic lasting for two and three-quarter hours sends Djokovic into his 57th match with Nadal, bidding for a tenth Rome trophy.
“I was able to bounce back,” Djokovic said after escaping a Sonego upset. “I came back well after the second set.
“If I had started the third set a break up things would have looked different. I have only myself to blame for not closing in straight sets.
“He’s a quality player, very dynamic, there was an electric atmosphere out there.
“I managed to close out the match well.”
Djokovic will be playing his 11th Rome final as he aims for a sixth trophy; he and Nadal will meet in a final here for a sixth time.
Djokovci has one strategy for the final: rest
“I need to recover, and I don’t have much time. I’ve played a lot of tennis.
“I will need fresh legs to have chance against Rafa. Hopefully I’ll be refreshed and able to give everything.”
Main photo:- Novak Djokovic beating Lorenzo Sonego in Semi Final ©ATPTour.com