The first semi-final encounter at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2014 featured a two-time Rome conqueror Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic. The eighth-seeded Canadian has proved to be a tough nut to crack as he troubled the World no. 2 Serb from the very beginning. The athletes created a total of seven break points in the opener, yet all of them were rescued, including the set point Raonic unexpectedly generated at 5-4. Novak grabbed the initial mini-break in the thirteenth game, yet it was his opponent who eventually came up with a triple set point before converting thanks to a service winner.
Although the 23-year-old Canadian’s powerful serving and penetrating shots kept disrupting Nole’s rhythm, the Serb succeeded in seizing the first break of the afternoon to pull 3-1 ahead in the set number two. However, Raonic clawed back in the follow-up game and the set progressed on serve until the second tie-break showdown of the day. This time the Belgrade native held his nerves and took advantage of a few of the rival’s errors to square things up and force a decider.
Raonic could not recover from suffering an early loss of serve in the final set and the second seed ultimately wrapped up the proceedings after yet another break to win the three-hour marathon 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-3. The Canadian’s 17 aces were not enough to eliminate Djokovic who will square off against the king of clay Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s final.
“It was a big win,” stated Djokovic. “Because it gives me a lot of strength and belief that I hope I can carry into tomorrow’s final and the rest of the season.”
“He played at a high level, especially on his serve, and I cannot recall the last time when I felt so helpless in the return games. I couldn’t really read his serve,” he commented on Raonic’s display.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal will be chasing his eighth Rome Masters title after cruising past surging Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, seed number twelve. The latter posed no real threat to the Spanish matador and got broken a couple of times in each set, whilst squandering all three of his break point opportunities during the one hour and twenty-four minutes long clash in the Italian capital. The top seed Spaniard triumphed 6-2, 6-2 to reach the ninth Rome final with the only title clash defeat coming in 2011 against Djokovic.
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