Italian Open 2019: Nadal, Djokovic Advance to Semi-Finals with Wins on Friday

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIMay 17, 2019

ROME, ITALY - MAY 17: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in their Men's Single Quarter Final Match during Day Six of the International BNL d'Italia at Foro Italico on May 17, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Top seed Novak Djokovic booked his place in the semi-finals of the 2019 Italian Open after coming from a set down to beat Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro.

The world No. 1 will face Diego Schwartzman for a place in the final. The Argentinian caused an upset by knocking out sixth seed Kei Nishikori in straight sets.

Second seed Rafael Nadal made light work of Fernando Verdasco on Friday, beating his Spanish compatriot comfortably to book a semi-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek star went through after third seed Roger Federer was forced to withdraw with a leg injury before their quarter-final clash on Friday.

In the women's draw, Great Britain's Johanna Konta beat Marketa Vondrousova in three sets to set up a semi-final against Kiki Bertens. The sixth seed progressed after world No. 1 Naomi Osaka withdrew from their quarter-final clash with a hand problem.

Greece's Maria Sakkari also secured her place in the last four after coming from a set down to see off Kristina Mladenovic. She will face fourth seed Karolina Pliskova after her win over Victoria Azarenka.

      

Men's Results

(2) Rafael Nadal bt. Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-0

(8) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. (3) Roger Federer (Federer withdrew)

Diego Schwartzman bt. (6) Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2

(1) Novak Djokovic bt. (7) Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4

     

Women's Results

(4) Karolina Pliskova bt. Victoria Azarenka 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-2

Johanna Konta bt. Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1

(6) Kiki Bertens vs. (1) Naomi Osaka (Osaka withdrew)

Maria Sakkari bt. Kristina Mladenovic 5-7, 6-3, 6-0

The full schedule is available from the tournament's official website.

     

Friday Recap

Djokovic survived a tough test against Del Potro, who took the first set after clinching the only break at 3-3 after the No. 1 seed sent a backhand wide following a lengthy rally:

The Serb was not enjoying himself on the clay, and his frustrations were evident, according to freelance writer Ben Rothenberg:

Djokovic responded well in the second and moved into a 5-2 lead. He had a chance to level the match but could not convert a set point, as the Argentinian held and broke back to put the match back on serve.

Both players held serve to send the match into a tiebreak. Del Potro had two match points but a missed forehand, and a Djokovic drop shot saw him level things at 6-6 before he won the tiebreak:

There was more drama to follow in the third. Djokovic saved three break points to hold and make it 2-2 before he broke Del Potro to move 3-2 up.

This time Djokovic ensured there was no way back for Del Potro. The world No. 1 served the win out comfortably to move to within a match of the final.

Nadal's win over Verdasco has set up a rematch with Tsitsipas just a week after being knocked out of the Madrid Masters in three sets by the talented 20-year-old.

The second seed got off to a slow start, losing the first two games and then needing to save a break point to avoid going 3-0 down.

He managed to force his way back into the game but also had to save three break points at 4-4 before clinching the first set:

Nadal raced through the second in just 36 minutes to seal a landmark win in the Italian capital:

The second seed faces Tsitsipas after Federer was forced to withdraw:

The former world No. 1 explained on Twitter the reason behind his decision to pull out:

There was also a key withdrawal in the women's tournament as top seed Osaka was forced out:

Osaka's injury means that sixth seed Bertens goes through to face Konta in the semi-finals, after the Brit beat Vondrousova in three sets.

Konta has enjoyed a fine week in Roma, beating Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams, and she continued her momentum against the Czech.

The 28-year-old broke at 2-1 to move ahead in the first set and again at 5-3 to clinch the opening set:

Vondrousova hit back in the second set, clinching a crucial break at 2-2 with a powerful forehand passing shot:

The Czech broke again to send the game into a decider and looked to have the momentum going into the third set.

Vondrousova had a chance for an early break to go 2-0, but Konta came up with a spectacular backhand winner and did not look back from there.

Konta won six games in a row to take victory in one hour and 53 minutes and booked her place in the semi-finals. Her win also means her WTA ranking will move inside the top 32, netting her a seed at the 2019 French Open, according to WTA Insider.

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