Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will face off for the 51st time on Saturday afternoon, playing for a place in the final of the Italian Open. Djokovic is hoping to make the final for the fifth year running while Nadal must win to keep his chances of returning to No.1 alive. The head to head currently stands at 26-24 in Djokovic’s favour.
After easing his way to the quarter finals, Djokovic had a tougher time against Kei Nishikori. He went down 1-5 early but fought well to come back, winning fairly comfortably in the latter two sets for a 2-6 6-1 6-3. “”Today, the quality of tennis was really high, I mean, Kei was playing fantastic, especially in the first set… and it took me little bit of time to adjust to his pace.” he said. It is Djokovic’s first semi final since the grass season last year, where he won the title in Eastbourne.
Nadal also lost a set in the quarter finals, before crushing Fabio Fognini in the last two sets for the loss of just three games. He had previously led 4-1 in the opening set, only for an inspired Fognini to reel off five straight games to take the set. An early break in the second set the tone for the rest of the match with Nadal in control from thereon. “I think, I played more aggressively with my forehand and I when I play more aggressively with my forehand, then the backhand becomes better. It’s true that I feel that is an important victory for me. There’s a lot of positive things out of the match today.” he said afterwards.
“I’m really happy that I mentally stayed strong, In the ending of the third set I really fought and showed some resilience. This victory means a lot to me on different levels, mostly mental.” a delighted Djokovic said. Despite the impressive week, it may be too early for the Serbian to challenge an utterly dominant Rafael Nadal. Dating back to Beijing 2013, Djokovic had won 11 of the last 13 clashes between the two but in their most recent meeting, Nadal was a comfortable winner on the clay of Madrid.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets