Italian Open 2019: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal Advance to Men's Final in Rome

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2019

Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns the ball to Diego Schwartzman of Argentina during a semifinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will face off in the final of the Italian Open on Sunday after they both won their respective semi-finals on Saturday at Foro Italico in Rome.

Nadal was exceptional in getting past Stefanos Tsitsipas, losing just seven games. Djokovic took on Diego Schwartzman later in the day and was made to work hard over the course of three sets before eventually coming through.

The women's final will see fourth seed Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta go head-to-head. Pliskova was a routine winner over Maria Sakkari, while Konta came from behind to get the better of Kiki Bertens.

                  

Saturday Results

Men's Semi-Finals

(1) Novak Djokovic bt. Diego Schwartzman: 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3

(2) Rafael Nadal bt. (8) Stefanos Tsitsipas: 6-3, 6-4

    

Women's Semi-Finals

(4) Karolina Pliskova bt. Maria Sakkari: 6-4, 6-4

Johanna Konta bt. (6) Kiki Bertens: 5-7, 7-5, 6-2

     

Saturday Recap

Nadal's preparations for the French Open haven't been as serene as in recent years, but the Spaniard appeared back to his usual self with a masterful display on Saturday.

The second seed has lost in the semi-finals of his previous three clay court tournaments, including a defeat to Tsitsipas at the Madrid Open on May 11. However, this time he made no mistake, putting in his best performance of the competition so far.

Jose Morgado of Record praised the forehand of Nadal, which was lethal throughout:

He settled into an excellent early groove in the match, earning a break with this excellent passing shot in the first game:

Next up for Nadal is his long-term rival Djokovic, who dug deep to overcome a determined opponent in Schwartzman.

Djokovic was excellent in the opening set and appeared on course for a comfortable win. However, Schwartzman showed why he is such a difficult prospect on clay in the second, twice breaking the top seed and eventually taking the match into a decider in a tiebreak.

At this point, the Argentinian was pumped up:

The match continued to be tight early in the second set, although Djokovic was able to secure a crucial break in the sixth game, putting him to within touching distance of the final. The Serb produced some of his best play at this stage of the game:

In the end, the 15-time Grand Slam champion closed the match out, but he will need to improve to overcome Nadal.

Prior to that contest, the women's showdown between Pliskova and Konta should be an absorbing watch.

Konta's win represented the biggest shock of the day, as she rallied back from losing the first set in style. The Brit found her rhythm at the end of the second set to win 7-5 and then moved through the gears in the final set to progress relatively comfortably.

Here is the moment she got over the line:

Tennis journalist Simon Cambers feels Konta is getting better on this surface:

The final will represent another major hurdle for Konta to overcome, as Pliskova made light work of her semi-final opponent.

The fourth seed was outstanding against Sakkari, serving expertly throughout the match and upping her game at crucial moments. Sunday will be the third final of the year for the Czech, who is looking in peak condition again following an inconsistent couple of years.

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