Novak Djokovic will seek a record 36th career Masters title Monday against Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the Rome final.
Djokovic, a 4-time Rome champion, reached his 10th final cruising past surprise semifinalist Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3.
Djokovic overcame multiple set points with Ruud serving 5-4, 40-15 in the first. From there, Djokovic ran off 9 of the next 12 games to deny to Norwegian who had never reached this far at a Masters before.
“It is super important. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here,” said Djokovic of winning on Monday. “I don’t take anything for granted, even after 15 years on the Tour, I still enjoy it.
“I still have a hunger for the titles and putting myself in a position to fight for the title is exactly where I want to be.”
In the final, it will be Schwartzman who won’t have a day off after a marathon 3h15m win over Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(4).
“I’m very, very happy. I think today was a crazy match, it was really tough for us,” Schwartzman said. “On my side I’m very happy because I have the win.”
The 21-year-old Shapovalov served for the at 5-4 in the third but failed to close. The win means Schwartzman is two sets from a first Masters title and a Top 10 ranking.
“I have two dreams tomorrow. One is winning a tournament like this and the second one Top 10,” Schwartzman said. “I need to play more than my 100 per cent. I don’t want to say impossible, because it’s not impossible. I know I can beat him. But it’s going to be very difficult.”
Shapovalov came up just short of reaching his second Masters final in 12 months.
“It’s big for my part to be able to go toe-to-toe against him from the back despite struggling with my serve,” said Shapovalov. “I think it shows great improvement from me, and I’m really, really pleased with the way I was able to play.”
Schwartzman is 0-4 against Djokovic, but he was 0-9 against Nadal before his stunning win.
“Diego played the match of his life last night and he also is most comfortable on clay,” Djokovic said. “Whatever comes my way, I will be ready and hopefully I can get my hands on the trophy.”
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