Rome, May 15 (EFE).- Novak Djokovic is poised to defend his Italian Open crown against Rafael Nadal after defeating host country favorite son Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2 in Saturday’s second semifinal.
It took the world No. 1 two hours and 44 minutes to get past the 33rd-ranked Sonego, whose performance captured the imagination of the spectators in the stands at Rome’s Foro Italico.
The Serb faced Sonego just hours after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a quarterfinal that went on for three hours and 16 minutes in all, having started Friday before rain interrupted play.
But Sonego was in the same boat, as the rain extended his clash with seventh-ranked Andrey Rublev into Saturday and that match also went to three sets.
Playing in only his fifth tournament this year, Djokovic was fresher at the start and took the first set in 35 minutes.
Sonego, victorious in his only previous match with Djokovic, showed character in the second set, saving two match points to force a tie-break, which he won to level the match at a set apiece.
The Italian carried that momentum into the third set, but his inability to convert on three break points in the first game opened the door for a Djokovic comeback.
On Sunday, Djokovic, 33, and world No. 3 Nadal will square off for their sixth Italian Open final.
The 34-year-old Spaniard is a nine-time champion in Rome, while Djokovic has won the event five times. Nadal triumphed in three of their five previous finals here.
Nadal and Djokovic have played each other 56 times and the Serb holds a 29-27 edge.
The Italian Open women’s final will pit 2020 French Open winner Iga Swiatek against Karolina Pliskova.
Poland’s Swiatek, 19, bested US 17-year-old Coco Gauff, playing in her first semifinal on clay. Czech former world No. 1 Pliskova defeated Petra Martic of Croatia in three sets.
Sunday’s final will be the first match between Swiatek and Pliskova. EFE am/dr