World tennis number one Novak Djokovic kept his top ranking on the ATP men’s tour after beating Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Italian Open.
Djokovic was at risk of Daniil Medvedev replacing him at the summit again if he didn’t advance to the semi-finals of the ongoing tournament.
Yet he prevented this by beating his Canadian foe 7-5 7-6 (1) and advancing to the final four while also pulling within just one win of 1,000 career victories.
Djokovic applauded his 21-year-old opponent for the endurance he displayed in rallies, with the pair neck and neck at various points of the tight match.
«He has the lethal serve honestly… It was not easy for me at all to return. He’s also returning well, moving well. He’s a very complete player,» explained Djokovic to reporters after.
«I was a set and 5-2, match point, serving for the match. Credit to him for fighting back. Amazing atmosphere as well tonight.»
As a result of his triumph, Djokovic will next face Norwegian Casper Ruud, who beat Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 7-6(7) 7-5.
On the other side of the draw, world number three Alexander Zverev will now face Stefanos Tsitsipas for a place in the final after beating Cristian Garin 7-5 6-2.
«I think it was a high-level match,» said Zverev, who won the tournament in 2007. «At times it wasn’t pretty tennis but I got the job done and that’s the most important thing.»
Relishing the chance to face Zverev again after two showdowns already in 2022 in Monte Carlo and Madrid, Tsisipas described Zverev as a «player that challenges me when I’m out on the court».
«He has a lot of experience on the tour, much earlier than when I started playing here. We have similar game styles but he is one of the most difficult players on the tour,» Zverev added.
The Rome Open is one of the last tournaments before the French Open on May 22 where Medvedev has been tipped to make a comeback following a hernia operation.
On May 18, the reigning US Open champion will play a Round of 16 tie against a still unknown opponent at the Geneva Open but can star at Roland Garros without fear of the restrictions seen at Wimbledon for Russian athletes after they received a green light in France.
«We keep the line of what all the European governments – and other governments – decided in March, i.e. national teams of Russia and Belarus banned, but not the athletes as individuals, as long as they play under strict neutrality,» said Roland-Garros Tournament Director Amelie Mauresmo to French radio this week.
«We will be very meticulous on that,» she vowed.
«[But] if any of them should have pro-Putin statements in the media, there will be sanctions for sure.»
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