Lorenzo Sonego continues dream run at Italian Open to set up semi-final clash with Novak Djokovic

Home favourite is the first Italian through to the last four since 2007

Lorenzo Sonego celebrates after beating Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open. AP
Lorenzo Sonego celebrates after beating Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open. AP

Lorenzo Sonego defeated world No 7 Russian Andrey Rublev on Saturday, continuing his dream run at the Italian Open and becoming the first Italian semi-finalist at the event in 14 years with a come-from-behind 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

Following his wins over US Open winner Dominic Thiem and former world No 6 Gael Monfils in previous rounds, the 26-year-old Sonego becomes the first local man in the semi-finals of the Masters 1000 event since Filippo Volandri in 2007.

"(This is) my favourite tournament in the world. I'm with my people here," Sonego said. "I am so happy for this."

The 33rd-ranked Italian will have loud support from the stands when he returns to the court for his semi-final later on Saturday against top seed Novak Djokovic.

The Serbian world No 1 was trailing 6-4, 2-1 against Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas when the match was halted by rain on Friday but rallied to a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 win on Saturday.

Djokovic's match on Friday was suspended twice but he raised his game at crunch moments to twice come back from a break down in the deciding set on his way to the semi-finals for the eighth straight year.

"It felt like we played two matches, actually we did, one yesterday where he was a better player," said Djokovic.

"He started also better today I managed somehow to hold my nerve, breaking serve at important moments.

"Without a doubt, until the last shot I didn't know whether I was going to win but I believed that I could.

"I am just really, really glad to overcome this challenge. It was probably the toughest match of the year for me so far."

Second seed Rafa Nadal will compete against big-serving American Reilly Opelka in the other semi-final.

Published: May 15, 2021 05:01 PM

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