Novak Djokovic seals 999th career win in a classic against Felix Auger-Aliassime to progress to Italian Open semi-finals
After crashing out to Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open semi-finals last weekend, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic has followed up impressive wins against Aslan Karatsev and Stan Wawrinka this week with an emphatic victory against Felix Auger Aliassime in their first ever meeting on the ATP tour. Djokovic, a five-time champion in Rome, will play clay-court specialist Casper Ruud in the final four.
Highlights: Djokovic battles past Auger-Aliassime to reach Rome semi-finals
"I thought I could have finished the job [against Auger-Aliassime] earlier," Djokovic said on-court afterwards. "I was a set and 5-2 up and was serving for the match, but credit to him for fighting back. Amazing atmosphere as well tonight."
On facing Ruud next, Djokovic said: "Great quality opponent. A clay-court specialist, but he has improved a lot on other surfaces and played in the final at Miami this year.
"A very hard worker, nice guy. We practice a lot and get on well off the court. Tomorrow on the court we want to win against each other no doubt."
After a tight opening to the first set, Djokovic thought he got a breakthrough in the eighth game, breaking the Auger-Aliassime serve when the Canadian fired a forehand long after a lengthy rally. But Auger-Aliassime fought back immediately to get the tie on serve after Djokovic miscontrolled a backhand.
Both players engaged in a high-quality baseline battle, but Djokovic snatched the set on Auger Aliassime's serve thanks to a violent cross-court winner. Djokovic let out a passionate roar having won a set where he made only seven unforced errors.
Auger-Aliassime retained his composure in a tense opening to the second set where neither player gave up a break point. That was until the sixth game when Auger-Aliassime slipped on the clay to hand Djokovic two.
Although the world No. 10 rescued both with an ace and a forehand winner, a string of unforced errors from the 21-year-old presented Djokovic with a further two. Djokovic made no mistake on the fourth attempt, finishing off a sensational rally by lobbing his opponent.
Djokovic saved two break points to move within a game of the semi-finals. Auger-Aliassime just about held his next service game, saving a match point, before breaking back to 5-5 after a rare unforced error from Djokovic.
A few tense games ticked along with serve before a conclusion was reached in the tie-break. Djokovic seized the early initiative with a perfect drop shot to go 2-0 up.
Djokovic did not relent after that, bamboozling Auger-Aliassime with a flurry of fine winners to seal his place in the last four.