Nadal, Djokovic Set To Renew Rivalry In Rome SF; Defending Champ Zverev Rolls On
by Staff | May 18th, 2018, 10:22 pm
  • 56 Comments

Three former champions have reached the Rome semifinals, led by 7-time winner Rafael Nadal who is set to renew his longtime rivalry with Novak Djokovic.

In an early start, Nadal came from a set down to deny Italian favorite Fabio Fognini 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

“I believe first set, I think it started well with both of us playing well,” said Nadal. “I think I had an opportunity on return at 4-1, but he played some great shots in that game… He played great tennis, hit a lot of winners, taking the ball very early.”

“Having a break early in the second set definitely helped my confidence,” added Nadal. “But then, I think, I played more aggressively with my forehand and I when I play more aggressively with my forehand, then the backhand becomes better. It’s true that I feel that is an important victory for me. There’s a lot of positive things out of the match today.”

Djokovic also went three sets, and nearly blew losing a break lead in the third to hang on for a tough 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Kei Nishikori. The win puts Djokovic into his first semifinal of the season, and pits him against Nadal tomorrow.

“It means a lot to me to be able to play [in the] semi-finals of a tournament again,” said Djokovic. “This is what I was looking forward to. This is what I was hoping to achieve.”

“I’m really happy that I mentally stayed strong,” he said. “In the ending of the third set I really fought and showed some resilience. This victory means a lot to me on different levels, mostly mental.”

Djokovic, a 4-time Rome champion, leads Nadal 26-24 over in their head-to-head and 16-10 in Masters events. But Rafa leads 15-7 on clay and won their most recent meeting a year ago in Madrid 6-2, 6-4, a win that snapped a 7-match streak for the Serb.

“Tomorrow is going to be the ultimate challenge on clay,” Djokovic said. “Beating Rafa is a really difficult thing to do on this surface. But, I’ve done it before.”

This is what I was looking forward to. This is what I was hoping to achieve. Obviously, I don’t want to stop here,” Djokovic added. “I’m a different player today than I was in the time I was winning against him on clay. But I believe in myself. I will go out on the court trying to win… I know he’s in great form. But, look, anything is possible. I’ve been playing some good tennis — really good tennis — this week.”

Added Nadal on the 51st meeting, “When you play some matches like I played against him in our career, you are happy to be part of that… You appreciate it a lot.”

In the second semifinal, defending champion Alexander Zverev will face another big man in Marin Cilic.

Zverev, the defending Rome champion, upped his win streak to 12, though his set streak came to an end in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over David Goffin.

“Just happy to be in another semi-finals. It’s my third week in a row. Of course I’m a little bit tired. But this is part of the game and in the important moments you have to find a way. And that’s what I did tonight,” Zverev said. “I came up with unbelievable shots at the end and I’m in the semi-finals. That’s all that matters.”

Cilic advanced over Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3 to reach his first career clay Masters semifinal. But Zverev leads 4-2 overall against the Croat.

“It’s going to be a very tough one,” Zverev said. “We’re not dissimilar players. We’re actually quite similar, both around two metres tall. Both serving well and actually move quite well on this surface… it’s going to be a fun one.”

SATURDAY ROME SCHEDULE
CENTRALE Starts at 12:00 noon
SF 4 Elina Svitolina VS Anett Kontaveit
Not Before 3:00 pm
SF 1 Rafael Nadal VS 11 Novak Djokovic
Not Before 5:00 pm
SF 1 Simona Halep VS Maria Sharapova
Not Before 8:00 pm
SF 4 Marin Cilic VS 2 Alexander Zverev


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56 Comments for Nadal, Djokovic Set To Renew Rivalry In Rome SF; Defending Champ Zverev Rolls On

Van Persie Says:

Djoko will lose this in 2 most likely, but he needs this match. Rafa will get extra motivated to play against his rival.

Idemo, Nole! Make it a bit competitive :)


Amit Says:

I am rooting for djokovic win as that would allow Federer longer run at #1.. #GoDjokovic!!! But i doubt nadal losing at Rome! However, it would be great if djokovic wins FO again! Nadal otherwise looks unstoppable there! Federer would thereby benefit! And i want nothing more than that, lol! #SelfishFedfan 😈😛😜


Nitesh Says:

@ Amit Indeed you are a selfish federer fan. Right now going by the form we all are expecting Rafa to win both Rome and French open.I will root for your guy in Wimbledon till then it’s Rafa all the way. Vamos….


Amit Says:

Nitesh

Thanks for the nice words buddy! Bhai mere fed aur rafa ki toh baat hi alag hai! 😀😍👌👌


Amit Says:

Nitesh

Seems like you are a Rafa fan.. actually fedal are both tremendous and equally great players! Tough to beat them at their best! And nice to know you rooting for Fed in wimby and Rafa at FO.. 😀😀😀 it makes you much more level-headed than me! #Respect 🙌


Amit Says:

Resurgence of djokovic makes tennis much more interesting though.. ^


gonzalowski Says:

It is about to decide who is the best clay player this season, at the moment it is between Rafa and A. Zverev.


gonzalowski Says:

what, all chicks here watching royal wedding??? 😏


Nitesh Says:

@Amit😁😁😁😁


Nitesh Says:

Best time of tennis calendar From French open till Wimbledon.
Gladiator French open followed by Elite Wimbledon. Two contrasting surface, two contrasting styles of play required, such variety in such a short time simply Wow….
Just can’t wait


Nitesh Says:

Nothing to decide here Rafa best clay court player every season.


jalep Says:

Good luck Nole!


Daniel Says:

Djoko having 2 BP’s and not converting. The first one at 15-40 he was in control of the pints but did not want to go BH DTL and let Nadal in going crosscourt to his FH.

Can’t miss this chances, but at least he is 40-0 on his own game.


Daniel Says:

Unusual for Nadal this clay season, 2 service games by his opponent and he hasn’t won a single point on serve still. Djoko with 2 aces already.


Daniel Says:

We have a match. Now go on and hold.


Berghain Says:

Good match so far. Djokovic breaks back to make it 5-5.


jalep Says:

Oh dear. I won’t hold my breath, Daniel. Novak is nervous on too many of the big points.


Daniel Says:

halep,Djoko only faced BP in one game, when he was Broken, Nadal faced BP in two games, one saved. Djoko won more points, more winner snd his BH cross court icon fire. To me he is slightly the better play and as he is serving better, advantage in tiebreak.


jalep Says:

Okay, if you say so, Daniel!
I’m too nervous to watch atm lol

Let me know who wins the tb


Daniel Says:

Nadal super agressive tiebreak unleashing some FH DTL deep, showing that he is confident. Let’s see if Djoko can keep it up in second set.


gonzalowski Says:

pfffiu old school match, how hard is Nole for Rafa


Joshua Says:

Nole in 3 I think.
#GoNole


jalep Says:

Phew. Nole very angry with himself – hm, I kinda like it :D

Maybe it’s a good sign. But what he needs is confidence that’s for sure. I think it was a good set of tennis but I admit I couldn’t stay with it. My hopes get up a bit to much. Tough to remain calm and objective!


Daniel Says:

And I like that Djoko is focused and angry. He needs it. His on court behavior is more like his old self. Hope he gets an early break.


gonzalowski Says:

don’t know who is gonna be more tired, looks like Rafa is running a lot


Tennis Lover Says:

Djoker needs to clean up his game or Rafa will wipe him out of the court


gonzalowski Says:

don’t know whya will Fred stone think about time between points… 😬


jalep Says:

ATP should have coaching breaks like WTA does. Just my opinion right now, which is subject to change. Right now I want Darren Cahill to go out there and talk to Novak.


Daniel Says:

Nadal on fire. He raised his level in tiebreak onwards.

Back in Rome final after 4 years. Another win on Djoko closing the HxH to 25-26. one match of evening it out.

Can’t see Zverev or Cilic beating him tomorrow. So Fed’s 5th stint at #1 will be just 1 week.

For Djoko a positive as he was able to compete with Nadal for 2 hours on clay and this shows that come HC he will fare much better.


gonzalowski Says:

yeeesss!!!! bien Rafa!!! what hard is the Nole, he looked a bit affected at the end, but not too bad this match for him IMO, in the line to be RG contender

26-25 now 😀


gonzalowski Says:

tight games at the end, Nole could have broke back.

Daniel, maybe A. Zverev could beat him, it’s possible.


jalep Says:

Daniel says:
“For Djoko a positive as he was able to compete with Nadal for 2 hours on clay and this shows that come HC he will fare much better.”

Sure hope Novak and team see the match like that and take positives because I love having Nole playing like he wants to win again.


Giles Says:

Hey Gonzo. Whose side are you on??


jalep Says:

Yep, Rafa is too tough to beat. Congrats Rafans.


Giles Says:

Well done Rafa. Vamos Champ!


Daniel Says:

Zevrev BH indeed is on fire, and he has a serve to et some free points. Also he is hitting very hard, Goffin was hardly sustaining the weight of his shots. Bu he has to win this afternoon in two sets, under 1 and half hours. He will have less recovery time for tomorrow’s final and he is on his 3rd straight week playing deep, he won Munich (4 matches), than Madrid (5 matches) last week and now can play another Rome final against Nadal, who even after a grueling match today is more rested.


Okiegal Says:

@Gonza 6:30……Wind, rain, hail, sleet or snow could not stop me from watching Rafa today! On second thought……. it’s possible a tornado might make me think twice! 🌪🌪🌪. 😱😱

Good win Rafa! Another finals!! YIPPY SKIPPY!

GOATOC!!! ❤️❤️💪💪

VAMOS!!!


fred stone Says:

gonzalowski,
I didn’t bring out my stop-watch but it seemed Djoker was taking more time to put his serve into play today.
Anyways what I thought about was when the hell will the ATP use Hawkeye for player challenges on clay courts?
Too many missed calls for anyone’s liking.


osazone Says:

Possibility of Sasha beating rafa if he gets to the final is slim to none, he sits too far behind the baseline ergo giving Rafa enough time.

looks more like No 8 for Rafa…

Djoko played great, some of his Houdini shots have been on display this week


gonzalowski Says:

Giles, #metoo for Rafa, always!! 😀


Humble Rafa Says:

looks more like No 8 for Rafa…

Though you are mathematically correct, 8 doesn’t sound right. It should be 10 or 11.

Who wins 8 of anything? May be it’s considered great at the Lawn Mower’s tournament.


osazone Says:

HR

Dont worry with this group of next gen players, 10 or 11 is not far fetched :-)


Daniel Says:

Zverev robbed, Cilicl had already netted the shot and the wrong call wouldn’t change anything.

Glad he saved Set Point.


The Arrogant Goat Says:

Zverev is getting primed for a first week loss at the French to maintain his majors consistency.


gonzalowski Says:

longer Zverev-Cilic 1st set than Nole- Rafa’s !!

about Delpo (I’ve not contrasted it): “I wanted to tell you that the medical studies that I did today determined that I have a grade 1 tear in the left adductor.I have already started the rehabilitation and we will see how the injury evolves these days to see if I can play at Roland Garros. thank you for the support!”


Daniel Says:

There is a clay record that only Zverev has. He was the only player to have ever won a Clay tourney without having his serve broken. In Madrid last week he only faced 1 BP the entire 5 matches. Wicked!

Onto another final. Hope he has something left in the tank to challenge Nadal. Than 8 days rest before RG.

Cilicl will move to #4 getting the 4th seed in RG ahead of Dimi,

Djoko will drop to 20 something getting a R32 seed, could face Nadal in RG R32. That would be bizarre.


Margot Says:

Well done Pretty Boy!


Czarlazar Says:

Nadal brought his B-/C+ game and it was more than enough to handle Nole pretty routinely. Though the former gladiator has seemingly convinced himself that winning is important again (or is he trying to convince Lacoste?), he’s not going to win many tournaments — certainly not Masters1000 and Grand Slams — with that vegan diet, a self-inflicted, constant disadvantage. Every time he raised his arms to celebrate a point, I felt like picking up the phone and sponsoring him.


The Arrogant Goat Says:

Agree ^^. Nadal intentionally played subpar to make Djokovic not look more pitiful than he already is.


Chris Ford Says:

I wonder if Novak has tried putting his poor poodle pooches on a vegan diet and had to switch back when they revolted on him.
Czarlazar – ” Every time he raised his arms to celebrate a point, I felt like picking up the phone and sponsoring him.” I feel like waving a picture of Stan Wawrinka grilling some giant bloody red half pound hamburgers at him.


Van Persie Says:

^^

Haha:) to be honnest, I did not expect such a good performance from Nole yesterday, given the start of his season after the medical intervention. Have to admit, I was impressed. Rafa played like Nole was still in his head.
Wonder how Nole will handle a best of 5 match. His stamina is bad at the moment anf the vegan diet does not help.


Van Persie Says:

Czarlazar,

I am really sure, Rafa would have liked to win with a 6-3, 6-1 or something like that. When you are facing an old rival, even if he is sub par at the moment, you want to “wound” him more, you do not want to make him feel better. Just that Rafa was yesterday not able to do it, mentally. But he may have this opportunity at the FO! I hope not, though.

Completely agree with the rest of your post.


Czarlazar Says:

With Nadal less than 100% dominant this clay season, Murray/Wawrinka injured and Fed absent, this was an opportunity for Nole to pick up a sorely needed title this Spring. Might have even been able to surprise at Roland Garros. Why he doesn’t add a daily dose of fish to his lentils and coconut water is beyond me. Couldn’t he stick to the clean eating piety after hanging up his racquet, preferably with 15+ slams, 35 or more Masters and retaining his HTH edge over Nadal and Federer? With this diet (and advancing age), he’ll pick off an ATP500 title or two and be remembered almost as much for the declining period as the manyvyears of dominance.


Madmax Says:

Nole is back. He should be proud of his achievements. People write him off at every opportunity, but he is showing some courage and strength. He lacks match practice and once that returns, and his mind is back to where it should be, he will start winning titles again. He is too talented to disappear from the game.


Czarlazar Says:

At # 22 on the ATP list, he is back, as in way, way back. Even the best Formula 1 racecar can’t win without the proper fuel. It’s as simple as that.


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