BRILLIANT! Novak Djokovic Overcomes Resiliant Stefanos Tsitsipas to Reach Italian Open 2021 Semis

Published 05/15/2021, 7:39 AM EDT
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 14, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his quarter final match against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane


Defending champion Novak Djokovic survived a spirited challenge from World No.5 Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the semi-final of the Italian Open on Friday.

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Seeking to impose himself on the World No.1 in the early exchanges, the Greek opened proceedings with a break of serve and consolidated his lead with a confident hold in the next game. However, the Serb hit back with a clinical service game to reduce the deficit in the opening set to 1-2.

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At 30-30 in Tsitsipas’s next service game, Djokovic demonstrated amazing defense to throw up an inch-perfect lob deep into his opponent’s court. Though the Greek reached it, he pulled his return wide to be down a breakpoint.

However, the Greek managed to pull it back to deuce. But the Serb brought up another breakpoint in the game with a clean forehand winner.

Stefanos Tsitsipas takes the opening set 6-4 against Novak Djokovic

Tsitsipas pulled level again with a sumptuous backhand down the line only to see his opponent respond a similar backhand winner to bring u up another breakpoint.

With the game ticking past eight minutes, Tsitsipas produced another winner on serve to bring it back to deuce. After a testing game, the Greek managed to come through and take his lead to 3-1 in the opening set.

A point off Serbian’s serve followed by a double-fault put Tsitsipas in sight of another break. The Greek fired a forehand cross-court winner to bring up another breakpoint.

Djokovic served his second double fault in the game to concede a decisive double break in the opening set.

Up 4-1, Tsitsipas conceded two points on serve, giving the Serb an opportunity of a break back. Djokovic produced a brilliant return to bring up another breakpoint and converted it this time to reduce his deficit to 2-4.

The Serb held serve comfortably to close the gap on Tsitsipas to 3-4.

It was at this point that the persistent drizzle got heavier and the chair umpire called the players into their locker rooms.

While Djokovic held a career head-to-head lead of 4-2 over the World No.5 going into this last-eight clash, he also won both matches involving the two on clay.

However, Tsitsipas did take the World No.1 to five sets in their last duel on dirt at last year’s French Open semi-final.

Picking up from where he left off on resumption of play post the rain break, Tsitsipas came up with a confident service hold to take his lead in the opening set to 5-3.

Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 14, 2021, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in action during his quarter-final match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Djokovic replied with a clinical service game, making the Greek serve for the first set. The Greek raced to 40-15 in the following game and closed out the game to go a set up in the contest.

Seeking to hit the ground running in the second, Djokovic opened with a hold to love to go 1-0 up. Wary not to take his foot off the pedal, Tsitsipas produced a neat service game to make it a game apiece.

At 15-15 in the next game, Djokovic raced back to meet a measured lob from the Greek but put his return into the net.

At deuce, Tsitsipas produced a stunning cross court winner to bring up his first breakpoint of the second set. He seized his chance to go 2-1 in the clear.

However, with the Greek surging ahead, the covers came on again as the raindrops got bigger, forcing the two players back into the change room.

With the rain not letting up, the chair umpire and the tournament officials decided to call off play for the day.

Action resumed on Saturday with Tsitsipas on serve and leading by a set and a break in the second set. Needing to break back, Djokovic took a point off the Greek’s serve to go  0-15 in the fourth game.

However, the World No.5 recovered to serve out the game and extend his lead to 3-1.

The Serb followed up with a clinical game to stay in the hunt at 3-2. Keen to leverage his advantage, Tsitsipas opened up a 30-0 lead in his next service game.

Djokovic fights back to win second set 7-5

Though Djokovic made it 30-30, the Greek recovered to hold and take his lead to 4-2.

The Serb held to love in his next service game to keep his comeback hopes alive. However, the Greek wasn’t about to let him back into the contest easily.

Pressing the Tsitsipas serve, the World No.1 went 0-30 up in the next. He soon brought up three breakpoints, but the Greek recovered with three straight points to go level at deuce.

However, the Serb pressed on and broke back to make it 4-4 in the second set. Hitting back, Tsitsipas went 0-30 up in the next game and was soon on breakpoint.

But Djokovic came back well to hold and come within a game of taking the match to a decider.

Though pressed again by the Serb, Tsitsipas kept his nerve this time to hold and make it 5-5. However, with a spring in his step since breaking back, Djokovic played out another comfortable service game to go 6-5 in the lead.

Djokovic takes final set after see-saw battle

The following game was on a knife-edge with Djokovic pressing hard for a decisive break. After seeing several breakpoints saved, the Serb eventually cashed in on one to take the second set 7-5.

Bursting with momentum, Djokovic opened the deciding set with a comfortable hold to go 1-0 up. The Greek responded by winning his opening service game in the decider to make it 1-1.

At breakpoint in the following game, Tsitsipas converted to go 2-1 in the lead. After surviving some anxious moments in his next service game, the Greek managed to hold and extend his lead to 3-1.

Seeking a decisive break, the Greek pressed the Djokovic serve in the next game. Surviving several breakpoints, the Serb managed to hold and reduce his deficit to 2-3.

Having survived an assault on his serve in the previous game, Djokovic had his own back by breaking Tsitsipas in the next and leveling the score at 3-3.

The Serb got his nose in front by winning his service game and making it 4-3. However, the Greek recovered from his slip-up in the previous game to make it 4-4.

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In yet another stunning twist, Tsitsipas broke Djokovic for the second time in the decider come within a game of reaching the last eight.

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Serving for the match, Tsitsipas trailed 15-30 in the next game. The Serb soon brought up breakpoint and converted it to yet again draw the contest level at 5-5.

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And, so the Serb did, going 0-30 clear in the next game. He soon brought up three breakpoints and the converted the first to complete a stunning, come-from-behind win.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

1101 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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