Novak Djokovic will face Kei Nishikori and Andy Murray will take on Lucas Pouille in the Internazionali BNL d'Itali semi-finals in Rome on Saturday.
Rome Masters tennis is live from Rome from 8-15 May 2016. Watch and bet on tennis live from Rome at bet365
World No. 1 Djokovic booked his spot in the semi-finals with a thrilling 7-5 7-6(4) victory over great rival Rafael Nadal. In what was their tightest contest for almost two years, Djokovic saved five set points when Nadal served for the second set at 5-4 and recovered from a break down in both sets to ultimately prevail in two hours and 25 minutes. It was Djokovic’s seventh straight win over Nadal, improving his H2H against the Spaniard to 26-23, while the Serbian has also won his last 15 sets against the ‘King of Clay’.
Djokovic will next take on sixth seed Kei Nishikori, who enjoyed a 6-3 7-5 win over Dominic Thiem. Nishikori has now won all four sets he’s contested against Thiem, and he will now aim to win his third match against Djokovic in the semi-finals. The pair met in Madrid last week, with Djokovic coming away with a 6-3 7-6(4) victory. Djokovic has won the last seven meetings between the pair, including the last nine sets.
Andy Murray meanwhile is through to the semi-finals in Rome for the first time since 2011 after he toppled David Goffin 6-1 7-5 at the Foro Italico. Murray has never reached the final of the Internazionali BNL d'Itali and is aiming to reach back-to-back clay court ATP Masters 1000 finals for the first time in his career. Goffin had come into this clash on the back of a sensational 6-0 6-0 drubbing of Tomas Berdych, but he couldn’t hang with Murray, with the Scot closing out victory in one hour and 35 minutes.
Murray will face lucky loser Lucas Pouille for a spot in Sunday’s final. Pouille advanced through to his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final after his scheduled quarter-final opponent Juan Monaco withdrew prior to the match with a hip problem. Pouille was ranked in the 90s during February, but on the back of an excellent clay season, he will now more than likely be seeded for Roland Garros in just over a week. Pouille had lost in the final round of qualifying but gained a place in the main draw when compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled out on tournament eve.
Fresh from their battles at the Madrid Masters, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal head on to Rome's Internazionali BNL d'Italia - the last Masters 1000 Series event of the clay-court season, and the final testing ground before the second Grand Slam of the year begins at the French Open.
All eyes will be on defending champion Djokovic and seven-time Rome Masters champion Rafael Nadal, whose resurgent form this spring threatens Djokovic's campaign to capture that elusive Roland Garros title. But they aren't the only players with something to prove. Roger Federer badly needs matches ahead of the French Open after his injury-hit season while Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios are all in fine form and anxious for a first Rome Masters title when the 2016 Internazionali BNL d'Italia takes place 8-15 May 2016.
Rafael Nadal is a seven-time Rome Masters champion (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
The tournament made its debut way back in 1930, at that point held in Milan, at the Tennis Club Milano. It was held there until 1935, when the tournament relocated to the Foro Italico in Rome – where it has since remained - before going on a hiatus from 1936 to 1949.
The event final was best of five sets up until 2007, with the last five-set final coming between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in 2006. It was an all-time epic, in which Nadal triumphed 7-6(5) in the deciding set.
Jaroslav Drobny (1950, 1951, 1953) was the only player to win more than two titles at the event before the Open Era, with Nicola Pietrangeli, Marty Mulligan and Rod Laver winning two titles each. Other players to win the event multiple times include legends Ilie Natase, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Roger Federer has only played one event since the Australian Open (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)
Nadal holds the record for titles won at the event, winning seven times (2005-07, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013) and reaching nine finals. The Spaniard holds every positive record in the men's history of the tournament, winning the most consecutive titles (three), and reaching the most consecutive finals (six, from 2009 through to 2014.) That streak of finals was broken in 2015, when Stan Wawrinka took him down in the quarter-finals. The Swiss then fell to countryman Roger Federer, who in turn lost out to Novak Djokovic: 6-4 6-3 in the title match.
Djokovic returns to defend his Rome Masters title as the undisputed world no. 1, having won almost all the biggest titles of the year so far - Doha, the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami. But there's a distinct cloud on the horizon for Djokovic in the form of Rafael Nadal, for so long the King of Clay (and of Roland Garros, the one title Djokovic desires above all others). Despite some wobbles earlier in the season, Nadal has reclaimed his Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell titles and is once again dominating the European clay season - is Rome the next crown he'll take back?
We could see Djokovic and Nadal clash to decide the Rome Masters title, but they aren't the only two players in the field to watch out for, not by a long shot. Roger Federer is scheduled to play as he tries to get his injury-hit season going, having played just three matches since the Australian Open, while Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios all bring their good form into Rome and defending French Open champion Stan Wawrinka winds up for his Roland Garros title defense.
The titans of clay are taking to the courts at the Foro Italico as the 2016 Rome Masters is played from 8-15 May 2016.
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