ROME. — Novak Djokovic was made to work hard by Casper Ruud in blustery conditions before the world No. 1 got past the unseeded Norwegian 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday to reach the Italian Open final.
The Serbian had to save two set points in the first set before finding his groove to reach his 10th title clash in Rome and remain on course to win his 36th ATP Masters 1000 crown and overtake Rafa Nadal on the all-time list.
He will face Diego Schwartzman in Monday’s final after the Argentine held his nerve to beat Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4) in a dramatic second semifinal.
“It was a tough two-setter today. It was over two hours for two sets,” said Djokovic, who equaled Nadal’s tally of Masters 1000 titles by winning the Western & Southern Open last month.
“I definitely had to work hard for most of the points and it was really anybody’s game in the first set.
“It was probably the windiest day since we arrived in Rome and it was quite tough to handle that. But the second set was much better, I got used to it and started swinging through the ball better.”
Djokovic started sluggishly and trailed 4-5 in the opening set but broke back and won the final three games to take the early advantage in the contest.