Novak Djokovic reaches Italian Open final after claiming 1,000th tour-level victory

World No 1 to face Stefanos Tsitsipas after defeating Casper Ruud in the semi-finals

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Novak Djokovic said he is ready for a "big battle" against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Italian Open final after the world No 1 earned his 1,000th tour-level victory with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Casper Ruud on Saturday.

Djokovic will be playing in the final in Rome for the fourth straight time and 12th overall. It will be a repeat of last year's French Open final, which Djokovic won after fighting back from two sets down.

"Again, another final against him in one of the biggest tournaments we have in the world," Djokovic told reporters. "He's definitely in form. I can expect a big battle, but I'm ready for it."

Djokovic, 34, is only the fifth man in the Open Era to reach the 1,000 wins milestone after Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl and Rafa Nadal.

"I've seen Roger and Rafa celebrate those milestones in the last couple years. I was looking forward to get to that thousand myself," Djokovic said. "It's been a long time, ever since I played my first match, ever since I won my first match on the tour. Hopefully, I can keep going."

Playing under the lights, Djokovic broke Norwegian Ruud's serve twice to earn a commanding 4-0 lead as the top seed made a fast start. Ruud broke Djokovic at 5-3 down and held his serve but the 20-time major winner closed out the set.

In the second set, Ruud saved three break points in the seventh game before Djokovic broke for a 4-3 lead.

Djokovic broke Ruud again as he wrapped up victory in one hour 42 minutes and the Serb will seek a record-extending 38th ATP Masters 1000 title in Sunday's final.

Earlier, world No 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Rome final for the first time after rallying to defeat Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev greet each other at the net after their Italian Open semi-final. EPA

Tsitsipas, who will rise to fourth in the ATP rankings next week, will be bidding for his third Masters 1000 title on Sunday.

In the third claycourt Masters 1000 semi-final between the pair this season, Tsitsipas overcame Zverev as he stayed consistent from the baseline and strong on serve.

"Battle of the serves," Tsitsipas said. "Battle of being able to take that first shot after the serve and really put quite a lot of pressure to it, which I think I was able to do really well in the third set.

"I was able to return a few on the third a bit more than him, get the ball in play, stay in those rallies, not give away much.

"I was really trying to stay there as long as possible and make every single one count."

Ons Jabeur will face Iga Swiatek in the Italian Open final. AFP

In the women's tournament, the final will be contested by the WTA Tour's most in-form players as Tunisia's Ons Jabeur and Poland's world No 1 Iga Swiatek put their winning streaks on the line.

Jabeur, who became the first Arab or African woman to win a Masters 1000 title when she clinched the Madrid Open trophy last week, extended her unbeaten record to 11 matches after fighting back from a second set wobble to beat Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

The Tunisian will take on a red-hot Swiatek, who is on a 25-match winning streak which has included titles in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, and Stuttgart. The Pole cruised into the final with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Aryna Sabalenka.

Updated: May 15, 2022, 6:43 AM
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