ATP

Djokovic denies spirited Sonego to set up Nadal final in Rome

By Sports Desk May 15, 2021

Novak Djokovic dug deep in the face of fierce Roman resistance to set up a showdown with Rafael Nadal in the men's final at the Internazionali d'Italia.

World number one Djokovic came from a set down overnight to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6 7-5 7-5 early on Saturday, before returning to the court to face Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the evening.

The Rome crowd raucously rallied behind Sonego, who beat Andrey Rublev earlier in the day, and the 26-year-old rose to the challenge but eventually fell to a 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 defeat.

Djokovic had match points before serving for it at 6-5 in the second set, yet it was to prove a stirring game as the noisy home crowd encouraged Sonego, who snatched a gutsy break. The tie-break looked set to be wholly one-sided when Djokovic raced 3-0 ahead, but it was soon back on serve, partisan spectators at the Foro Italico roaring in delight at a double fault from the Serbian.

From 4-2 behind, Sonego surged to 6-4 ahead in the tie-break. He failed to convert a first set point when ripping a forehand into the net, but the set was his when Djokovic sent a backhand service return long.

Sonego then had 0-40 against the Djokovic serve at the start of the decider, but he could not force the break, and the top seed gained strength from that escape, eventually cruising to victory.

Five-time Rome champion Djokovic said on Amazon Prime: "I bounced back very well after the second set. Maybe if he started with a break up in the third, things would look differently. I also had my chances and I only had myself to blame for not closing the match in straight sets.

"But he's a quality player, very dynamic, it's not easy to play against him and obviously he had the crowd behind him. It was an electric atmosphere. In the end I managed to close out the match really well."

Looking ahead to tackling Nadal, Djokovic said: "I need to recover. Hopefully I'll have fresh legs because that's what I definitely will need and it's necessary to have a chance against Rafa. He also had some tough matches [this week] and hopefully I'll be fresh and I'll give it all."

While Djokovic and Sonego thrashed away into the night, nine-time champion Nadal had no such workload issues on Saturday.

Nadal beat Alexander Zverev on Friday to set up a semi-final against American Reilly Opelka, and the Spaniard snatched a 6-4 6-4 win from that contest to reach the title match.

Related items

  • Tsitsipas reaches first grass-court final, Fritz and Cressy set up all-American Eastbourne showdown Tsitsipas reaches first grass-court final, Fritz and Cressy set up all-American Eastbourne showdown

    Roberto Bautista Agut stands in the way of Stefanos Tsitsipas and his first grass-court title.

    Making his debut at the Mallorca Championships, Tsitsipas sealed his maiden appearance in a grass-court final by cruising past Benjamin Bonzi 6-4 6-4 on Friday.

    The world number six has now reached four finals this season, having lost two of the previous three – winning on clay at the Monte Carlo Masters.

    It was the second meeting between the pair in as many weeks, with the Greek having also downed Bonzi at the Halle Open.

    And Tsitsipas now has a chance to warm up for Wimbledon in winning fashion.

    "It was a good match. I am very happy today," Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. "I have played a final a week before a grand slam before. It was the year I made the final at Roland Garros, in Lyon.

    "It worked out pretty well to have that final and consistency of matches. It is different this time. We are talking about a different surface, so we will see."

    Tsitsipas has now claimed a tour-leading 39 wins this season, but standing between the 23-year-old and silverware is Spaniard Bautista Agut, who reached a 20th career final by beating Antoine Bellier 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

    Like Tsitsipas, Bautista Agut is aiming for a second title of the season.

    At the Eastbourne International, two Americans will vie for the title after Indian Wells Masters champion Taylor Fritz saw off a tough challenge from Alex de Minaur while Maxime Cressy defeated home favourite Jack Draper 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (2-7) 6-3.

    Fritz, who triumphed at Eastbourne in 2019 – similarly against an American, in Sam Querrey – but has found his best form hard to come by of late, also needed three sets to get the better of De Minaur, eventually succeeding 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-3.

    "It's amazing," Fritz said. "I was having a bit of a rough start coming back from injury to the grass season, and then I came here and the first day I was here I just immediately felt like I was playing good tennis again.

    "I just have a lot of confidence being here, obviously great memories, so I'm really excited to come back out and play for the title again."

  • Ostapenko set for Eastbourne title defence as Halep's suffers neck injury ahead of Wimbledon Ostapenko set for Eastbourne title defence as Halep's suffers neck injury ahead of Wimbledon

    Reigning Eastbourne International champion Jelena Ostapenko will go up against Petra Kvitova in 2022 Saturday's final.

    Ostapenko won as a wildcard in 2021, and the world number 14 confirmed her place in this year's showdown by overcoming Camila Giorgi on Friday.

    She is the first female player to reach back-to-back finals in Eastbourne since Caroline Wozniacki in 2017 and 2018.

    The Latvian, who is also going to compete for the doubles title, prevailed 6-2 6-2 and will now go up against Kvitova. The pair have faced off eight times previously, with each player winning four matches.

    It is Kvitova's first appearance in a final in 2022, with the former world number two – and two-time Wimbledon champion – having ended Beatriz Haddad Maia's winning streak.

    Haddad Maia won in Birmingham last week and Nottingham the week before, but her run came to an end at 12 matches, with Kvitova triumphing 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

    "For me, a final after almost a year [without one] will be great, so I’m glad already," said Kvitova, who was a runner-up at Eastbourne in 2011 and last reached a final on grass in Birmingham four years ago.

    "Jelena loves to play here, obviously, we saw it, she has a really great game for grass."

    Meanwhile, at the Bad Homburg Open, 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu reached her sixth career final courtesy of a walkover against Simona Halep.

    The Romanian withdrew from the semi-final clash with a neck injury, which will worry the 2019 Wimbledon champion ahead of the season's third grand slam at the All England Club.

    "I am sorry that I had to withdraw today before my semi-final match," Halep said in a statement.

    "But unfortunately I woke up this morning with a blocked neck and this is not allowing me to perform to the best of my ability."

    Andreescu will face Caroline Garcia, who saved a match point before going on to beat fellow Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 7-6 (11-9) 3-6 7-5 to reach an 11th tour-level showpiece.

  • 'I can't say I disagree' - Shriver on Wimbledon's move to ban Russian and Belarusian players 'I can't say I disagree' - Shriver on Wimbledon's move to ban Russian and Belarusian players

    Former Wimbledon doubles champion Pam Shriver has said she does not disagree with the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year's tournament.

    Shriver landed 21 women's doubles grand slam titles, of which 20 came in partnership with Martina Navratilova, and 112 career doubles titles in all, and she also claimed 21 singles tournament wins.

    Russian and Belarusian players have been banned from this year's Wimbledon due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    Speaking to Stats Perform, Shriver – who won five women's doubles championships with Navratilova at Wimbledon – said while she did not like that it was a decision that needed to be made, she did not object to it.

    "War is messy, right? War is tragic. It's been a horror show for Ukrainian people," said American Shriver. "And there's a lot of Ukrainian professional tennis players that are just living through hell.

    "Obviously, the decision has been made to try and have the tightest of sanctions. So when you think about the industry of pro tennis, if we're going to have sanctions as well, then Wimbledon [should too], and I understand the UK government has put some pressure throughout the country to not do business with Russians during this time.

    "I wish they had never had to make the decision, but I think under the circumstances, I can't say I disagree [with it]."

    Shriver also said the decision from the ATP, WTA and ITF to remove ranking points from this year's tournament was "really unfortunate".

    However, she does not believe it will make Wimbledon seem like an exhibition, saying: "It's not an exhibition because of the prize money and because of the prestige of winning a Wimbledon title.

    "Those are actually the two main things. I think the points are third, and so you're missing the third most important aspect, but the prize money is huge, and [the tournament] will be just as prestigious as ever."

    As a result of the ban on Russian players, men's world number one Daniil Medvedev will not be in attendance at SW19, but Shriver does not think it will diminish the competition.

    "You know, maybe some years it would [be a problem that Medvedev is not there] but... you're going to have the number one seed being [Novak] Djokovic and number two seed being [Rafael] Nadal," she said.

    "When you have the player who has more majors than anybody else ever in the men's game at 22, Rafa, and you have Novak trying to win his fourth straight Wimbledon and his seventh overall and trying to chase Rafa's 22, I think that's going to hide the fact we don't have a number one.

    "It's going to be an unusual year to not have rankings one and two [Medvedev and the injured Alexander Zverev], but I feel like the names on the men's side, [Carlos] Alcaraz, [Matteo] Berrettini, [Hubert] Hurkacz got to the semis last year, the two Canadian guys [Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov].

    "I feel like there's still such great depth and with Rafa and Novak leading the way, it's fine."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.