Tennis: Djokovic's 1,000th career win sets up Roland Garros replay in Rome final
ROME, Italy -- World number one Novak Djokovic took his place in the Italian Open final on Saturday by claiming his 1,000th career win in straight sets over Norway's Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-3 in Rome.
Djokovic will face Monte Carlo Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday's final, the Serb's fourth in as many years in the Italian capital and he basked in the warm applause of a crowd for whom he always enjoys playing.
"If I can pick the two places in the world where I would want to celebrate the thousandth win it's in Serbia and here in Rome," Djokovic said in Italian after being given a cake in honor of the milestone.
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.
ROME - This is just what Novak Djokovic needed a week before the French Open.
The top-ranked Serb beat Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-3 at the Italian Open on Saturday to reach his biggest final of the year.
Having missed a big portion of the season because he wasn't vaccinated against the coronavirus, Djokovic will attempt to extend his five-match winning streak over Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday's final.
Tsitsipas reached his first Rome final by rallying past Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Djokovic, seeking his sixth Rome title, recorded the 1,000th win of his career, making him only the fifth man to reach that mark after Jimmy Connors (1,274 wins), Roger Federer (1,251), Ivan Lendl (1,068) and Rafael Nadal (1,051).
Capping off a very exciting week in Rome will be the tenth meeting between Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas. One seems to be back in his best shape, the other is balancing between the first and second leagues when it comes to French Open contenders. Who do you think will clinch the 2022 Internazionali BNL d’Italia title?
Even in Belgrade less than a month ago, Novak Djokovic was far from convincing. The Serbian was dropping sets left and right and struggling with the physical toll of returning to tennis after a break. However, it looks like these issues are long gone. In Madrid, Djokovic made the semifinals going out to Carlos Alcaraz in a third-set tie-breaker. He’s been even deadlier in Rome, not dropping a set in four matches so far.
Stefanos Tsitsipas won the first clay ATP 1000 event of the season in Monte Carlo. It feels like all his rivals have improved since then, while he’s just been slightly underwhelming. He’s still going deep in all the clay events, but he’s getting pulled into tough fights in the early rounds like the one against Grigor Dimitrov here, where he had to fend off two match points. Against Carlos Alcaraz in Barcelona or even both the matches against Alexander Zverev (lost in Madrid, won in Rome), he was nowhere near his best.
Djokovic leads their head-to-head on clay 4-0, but it’s never been that easy. Tsitsipas took him to five sets at Roland Garros twice and served for the match in Rome last year. This surface covers a lot of the weak points of the Greek’s game, mostly relating to his one-handed backhand. He can step around it much more easily, the return is stronger and he shanks considerably less when given more time on the ball.
Yet, the Serbian has been the better player this week by a country mile. His game has been nowhere near as up and down as his opponent’s and with the 20-time Grand Slam champion, you just expect him to deliver on the mental front too.
Djokovic is chasing a sixth title at the Foro Italico ahead of Roland Garros later this month and dealt with world number 10 Ruud on his way to a 12th final at one of his favorite venues.
The 34-year-old has already secured a record-extending 370th week as world number one thanks to his straight sets victory over by Felix Auger-Aliassime on Friday.
And after racing into a rapid 4-0 lead in the first set he never looked back, Ruud playing some fun tennis and winning entertaining rallies but never really offering the impression he could overhaul Djokovic.