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Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal Set for 2021 Italian Open Final

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 15, 2021

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are set to meet in the finals of the Italian Open for the sixth time after they both won their semifinals Saturday.

As a result of rain delays Friday, Djokovic had to finish his quarterfinal match and play his semifinal match Saturday, while Nadal had the benefit of playing only once.

The final was set in the women's draw as well, with Karolina Pliskova advancing and Iga Swiatek winning two matches to reach her first Italian Open final.

Here is a full rundown of Saturday's results, along with a closer look at some of the top matches.

Saturday's Italian Open Results

Men's quarterfinals: (1) Novak Djokovic def. (5) Stefanos Tsitsipas; 4-6, 7-5, 7-5

Men's quarterfinals: Lorenzo Sonego def. (7) Andrey Rublev; 3-6, 6-4, 6-3

Men's semifinals: (2) Rafael Nadal def. Reilly Opelka; 6-4, 6-4

Men's semifinals: (1) Novak Djokovic def. Lorenzo Sonego; 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2

Women's quarterfinals: (15) Iga Swiatek def. (5) Elina Svitolina; 6-2, 7-5

Women's semifinals: (9) Karolina Pliskova def. Petra Martic; 6-1, 3-6, 6-2

Women's semifinals: (15) Iga Swiatek def. Coco Gauff; 7-6(3), 6-3

              

Multiple players had a busy Saturday at Foro Italico in Rome on Saturday due to Friday's rain, and top-seeded Djokovic was chief among them.

The Djoker finished out his quarterfinal match with fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas early in the day, and he had to come back from a set down to do so, winning both the second and third sets 7-5.

Per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), Djokovic said he didn't feel "too exhausted" after beating Tsitsipas since he hadn't played many matches in 2021. He also called it the "toughest match of the year" for him thus far.

Nole showed a lot of emotion following his come-from-behind win:

Tennis TV @TennisTV

A Roman Revival! ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น<br><br>The moment @DjokerNole completed a stunning victory over Tsitsipas to advance to his eighth consecutive Rome semi-final...#IBI21 pic.twitter.com/nCEH8ZeM1F

Like Djokovic, 26-year-old Italian Lorenzo Sonego had to play twice Saturday, and he too had a grueling quarterfinal match, coming from a set down to upset seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev.

Before Djokovic and Sonego's semifinal, second-seeded Nadal faced a tough challenge from 6'11" American Reilly Opelka, who gave Nadal all he could handle with his big serve.

Nadal was able to break Opelka's serve once in each set, though, which ended up being the difference in the win. Nadal also did a great job moving Opelka around the baseline:

ATP Tour @atptour

Some days you can do no wrong ๐Ÿ˜ฒ<br><br>๐ŸŽฅ: @TennisTV | @RafaelNadal | #IBI21pic.twitter.com/MHvZQk25Li

With the triumph, Nadal advanced to his 12th career Italian Open final, which is tied for his second-most final appearances at any tournament, behind only the French Open at 13:

ATP Tour @atptour

Most finals reached by Rafael Nadal ๐ŸŽพ<br><br>๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท Roland Garros: 13 (13-0)<br>๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Barcelona: 12 (12-0)<br>๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡จ Monte-Carlo: 12 (11-1)<br>๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Rome: 12 (9-2)

After both Djokovic and Sonego grinded out wins earlier in the day, they met in a semifinal that went the distance.

Djokovic won the first set and seemed poised to cruise to a straight-set win, but Sonego forced and won a tiebreak in the second set, which meant the match would required a decisive third set.

Djokovic proved too much for the underdog in the third, winning it 6-2 to set up a final clash with Nadal.

Nadal is 3-2 against Djokovic in the Italian Open final, including a three-set win two years ago, but Djokovic is the defending champion in the event, meaning Sunday's match should be tightly contested.

On the women's side, 15th-seeded Iga Swiatek had a day to remember, as she upset No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the quarters before outlasting 17-year-old American Coco Gauff in the semis.

Swiatek had everything working Saturday, even earning a point after a between-the-legs shot against Gauff:

wta @WTA

Serve and tweener? ๐Ÿ˜œ@iga_swiatek | #IBI21 pic.twitter.com/H7jwX1Op0I

Ultimately, the 2020 French Open champion executed better than Gauff, as she had half as many unforced errors in the win, per WTA Insider:

WTA Insider @WTA_insider

On Sunday @InteBNLdItalia, Iga Swiatek will play Karolina Pliskova for her 1st WTA 1000 title, 2nd title of the season, and a spot in the Top 10. <br><br>Follows up her win over Elina Svitolina this morning with a 76 63 win over Coco Gauff. #ibi21 pic.twitter.com/l0kDUDXM9L

Swiatek will look to secure a huge clay tournament win Sunday ahead of the start of her French Open defense on May 24, but she will be faced with a tough opponent in the form of ninth-seeded Karolina Pliskova.

Pliskova will be playing in her third consecutive Italian Open final, and she will be in search of her second Italian Open title after beating Johanna Konta in 2019.

Pliskova beat Petra Martic in a three-set affair Saturday, imposing her will on Martic in both the first and third sets.

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