Djokovic Garners 1,000th Career Win, Advances To Fourth Straight Rome Final

Novak Djokovic (photo: Giampiero Sposito, Internazionali BNL d’Italia)

ROME/WASHINGTON, May 14, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic earned his 1,000th career ATP Tour victory and advanced to his fourth straight Internazionali BNL d’Italia final and 12th overall with his dominating performance against 10th-ranked Casper Ruud in Rome Saturday evening.

The top-seeded Djokovic from Serbia, who was appearing in his ninth consecutive Rome semifinal and 13th overall, gave a top-notch performance in defeating the No. 5 seed Ruud of Norway, 6-4, 6-3, in one hour and 42 minutes, which delighted the Campo Centrale crowd on the Foro Italico grounds. Not even a couple of inadvertent but very audible car alarms going off near the stadium court could distract Djokovic from his mission of beating Ruud.

Djokovic becomes the fifth man in the Open Era of tennis to reach the 1,000-win plateau. He joins Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl and Rafael Nadal. Now, the five-time Rome champion is through to his fourth straight title match in in the Italian capital city. He will face World No. 5 and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in Sunday afternoon’s final. Djokovic leads his head-to-head series against Tsitsipas 6-2, including 4-0 on clay.

Djokovic’s semifinal victory improved his record against Top-10 opponents to 231-106 – most Top-10 wins since the start of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in 1973. Djokovic is 86-38 in career finals (37-17 in ATP Masters 1000 finals).

Against, Ruud, Djokovic sprinted to a 3-0 lead in the opening set after gaining back-to-back service breaks. He increased the advantage to 5-1 before he was broken by Ruud, who moved to within a game after consolidating the break. However, Djokovic stopped Ruud’s momentum and put away the 55-minute set by winning a 14-shot rally on his second set-point opportunity.

Then, at 3-all in the second set, following an exchange of comfortable holds, Djokovic made his move against Ruud and gained a pair of break points in the seventh game. However, Ruud erased both of them by winning a couple of lengthy and spirited rallies. Soon, Djokovic gained two more break points for a total of four during the 10-minute, 12-point game and finally broke Ruud on his fourth attempt to go ahead 4-3. Now, the Serbian merely needed to hold serve twice more to achieve the milestone 1,000th victory of his certain Hall of Fame career. As it happened, he only needed to hold once because he would break Ruud for a fourth and final time.

After Djokovic held serve confidently at 15 for a 5-3 lead, he gained a match point at 5-3, 30-40 on Ruud’s serve – and won with one last forehand winner that capped a 12-shot rally.

Djokovic hit 20 winners, won 70 percent (23 of 33) of his first-serve points, converted four of nine break-point opportunities and outpointed Ruud 62-53.

In a cordial exchange at the net, Ruud applauded Djokovic on his historic achievement. “Congratulations on 1,000 wins. I’m glad that I have some part of your history,” he said.

During his on-court interview, Djokovic reflected upon how he had been looking forward to getting to the 1,000-win milestone after seeing his contemporaries, Federer and Nadal, each celebrate 1,000 victories.

“You know, I’ve seen Roger and Rafa celebrate those milestones in the last couple of years, and I was looking forward to get to 1,000 myself,” he said. “I’m really, really blessed and privileged to have that many victories on the Tour. It’s been a long time ever since I won my first match on the Tour. Hopefully, I can keep going and get many more victories.”

Tsitsipas reaches first Rome final by rallying past Zverev

While World No. 1 Novak Djokovic went for his 1,000th career victory against No. 5 seed Casper Ruud in a rematch of their 2020 Rome semifinal, the first semifinal between World No. 3 Alexander Zverev and No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas marked the third time in the last four weeks that the two Top-5 players had met in an ATP Masters 1000 semifinal on clay. The sunny conditions – 29º Celsius, 84º Fahrenheit – and 10,400-strong capacity crowd that filled Campo Centrale lent to the great atmosphere at Foro Italico.

This time, it was the World No. 5 Tsitsipas who prevailed, winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours and 29 minutes, in a battle of resilience. While neither quite played their best tennis at the same time during their 12th career head-to-head meeting, the Greek star rose to the occasion and won for the eighth time in his rivalry with Zverev, and fourth time on clay.

Tsitsipas rallied from losing the opening set and came on solidly, breaking Zverev three times – including twice in the deciding set – to advance to his first Rome final. It was the 31st victory of the season for Tsitsipas. Now, he’s into his third final of the season and second on clay. It’s also Tsitsipas’ third Masters 1000 final of his career.

Zverev and Tsitsipas, who have now combined for 55 match wins this season – and Tsitsipas leads the ATP Tour this season with 31 wins – had split their recent European clay semifinal meetings. First, Tsitsipas dominated in Monte-Carlo, then Zverev prevailed in three sets in Madrid last week. After Saturday’s showdown, Tsitsipas leads their head-to-head 8-4, including 4-1 on clay.

While the winner of the opening set had gone on to win the match in 10 of the previous 11 meetings between Zverev and Tsitsipas, this time it was Tsitsipas who turned the tide after Zverev started out aggressively. At a set each, Tsitsipas break for a 3-2 lead after taking advantage of a Zverev double fault and an unforced error off his forehand. He consolidated the break and had an easy hold in his next service game for a 5-3 lead. Then, he broke at love and won on his first match-point opportunity after Zverev erred on the 21st shot of the final rally. It was the third time Tsitsipas had come back to win after losing the first set this season.

During his post-match, on-court interview, Tsitsipas was asked what made the difference between winning and losing this time against Zverev. He expressed: “Being able to handle my serve very precisely. That was very important today. There came a moment in the beginning of the first set where I felt like I was repeating the same mistakes after my serves, but I was able to cover it up in the second and third set and stayed within using my best weapons and executing them smartly.”

Tsitsipas served three aces and finished with 18 winners to 29 unforced errors. He broke Zverev three times in five tries. Meanwhile, Zverev tallied 30 winners but committed a whopping 41 unforced errors. He converted just one break-point opportunity, in the opening set. Tsitsipas outpointed his opponent 95-83.

“[Sascha] wasn’t giving me much to work with. I had to work hard for every single point,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m extremely proud of the way things turned around and that I was able to read the game, play better and understand what was working.”

Isner and Schwartzman advance to first doubles title match together

Unseeded John Isner of the United States and Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, both ranked in the Top 30 as singles players, have combined their talent this week on the doubles court for the first time and reached the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final. On Saturday, they defeated unseeded Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina and Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-4, 4-6, 11-9, in an hour and 42 minutes on Pietrangeli.

Isner and Schwartzman – nicknamed Team Isnerman – outpointed Gonzalez and Golubev 65-60.

The victory advanced Isner and Schwartzman to Sunday’s title match against No. 3 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia, who defeated unseeded Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini of Italy, 6-3, 7-6 (5), in an hour and 33 minutes. Mektic and Pavic outpointed their opponents 65-62, winning 80 percent (33 of 41) of their first-serve points.

Saturday’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia results

Sunday’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia order of play

By the numbers

Novak Djokovic became the fifth man in the Open Era (since 1968) to earn 1,000 tour-level wins after defeating Casper Ruud Saturday evening. The others are: Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,251), Ivan Lendl (1,068), Rafael Nadal (1,051).

“Quotable …”

“It’s one of those tournaments that I think has the most history in sport. As you can see looking around the sides, one of the most beautiful stadiums. There’s a lot of history playing on these courts and you feel very proud that you made your way here and are able to participate in such a historically rich event.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, commenting on playing in Rome on Campo Centrale at Foro Italico.