Novak Djokovic will head into the French Open later this month as the No. 1-ranked player in men’s singles tennis as the Serb made sure he did not concede the top rank to Daniil Medvedev for the second time this year. Djokovic needed to reach the semi-final of the Italian Open 2022 and the 20-time Grand Slam champion stormed into the last 4 in Rome, beating Felix Auger-Aliasimme 7-5, 7-6 (1) in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Djokovic will face Norwegian 6th seed Casper Ruud in the semi-final and the Serb knows it won’t be an easy test despite having shown signs of returning to peak form in his quarter-final win
Djokovic is yet to win a title on tour after having lost the Madrid Open semi-final to Carlos Alcaraz earlier this month and ordinary results coupled with the Australian Open controversy earlier this year. However, the Serb is favourite to win the title after Rafael Nadal was knocked out early in the competition.
Djokovic and Auger-Aliassime were neck and neck until the Serb broke to lead 5-3 but the eighth seed fought back.
It proved only a blip though as Djokovic wrapped up the opening set in style. The 21-year-old Aliassime was applauded by Djokovic for his display of endurance in rallies but again fell 5-3 behind, only to drag himself back into the contest again.
Having forced a tiebreak though, Aliassime was no match for Djokovic who found another gear when required.
“I know Felix well. He’s been around the top of the men’s game for quite a few years,” Djokovic said.
“He’s got a lethal serve, honestly… He’s hitting his spots in the box incredibly well with the serve, and it was not easy for me at all to return. He’s also returning well, he’s moving well. He’s a very complete player.”
Djokovic will be eying his 100oth tour-level victory on Saturday and a win on Sunday in the final will ensure he makes it a record-extending 38th ATP Masters 1000 title.
Ruud is ranked 10 in the World and he has shown signs of good form in 2022, reaching the final of the Miami Masters earlier this year. However, Djokovic has a 2-0 head-to-head record against Ruud, whom he defeated in the semi-final in Rome in 2020 and at the ATP Finals in 2021.
“Great quality opponent again. Clay-court specialist, but he has improved a lot in other surfaces, played the final of Miami this year. Just a very hard worker, nice guy,” Djokovic added.
“We practise a lot and get along well off the court. Obviously, on the court we want to win against each other, no doubt… Hopefully I can play as well as I did tonight (Friday).”