2020 in Review: Novak Djokovic edges Casper Ruud to pass Rafael Nadal

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2020 in Review: Novak Djokovic edges Casper Ruud to pass Rafael Nadal

Novak Djokovic reached the second final from as many Masters 1000 events in 2020 at Foro Italico. The four-time Rome champion prevailed over Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3 after two hours and 11 minutes, saving two set points in the opener and sealing the deal in the second set for the 52nd Masters 1000 final, leaving Rafael Nadal on 51.

Novak defended seven out of eight break chances and delivered three breaks to emerge at the top after a grueling battle with the first-time Masters 1000 semi-finalist. The Serb had 37 winners and 19 unforced errors, while Casper hit 26 winners and 29 mistakes, giving his best but finishing the Rome journey in the semis.

The opening set lasted for 70 minutes, and they both played on a high level after pushing each other to the limits. Novak had 20 winners and 15 unforced errors, delivering two breaks and beating Ruud in the shortest and most extended exchanges to prevail 7-5.

Novak forced Casper's mistake in the first game to hold after deuce, with the Norwegian bringing the second game home at love after a forehand winner. Dominating from his stronger wing, the youngster grabbed a break in the third game when the Serb sprayed a backhand error and held at 30 following a loose forehand from Djokovic to confirm the break and open a 3-1 gap.

Novak held at love with a service winner to reduce the deficit and created two break chances in the next game that Casper denied and brought the game home after 11 minutes. They both held at love in games seven and eight to remain within the same distance, with Ruud serving for the set at 5-4.

Novak Djokovic prevailed over Casper Ruud in Rome semi-final.

The youngster wasted two set points and dropped four straight points to offer a break to Novak and keep world no. 1 in the opener, losing ground in the worst moment.

Djokovic had to work hard to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard in game 11, defending three break chances for another crucial hold. Serving to remain in the set, Ruud got broken at 30 following a forehand error, handing the set to Djokovic, who roared towards his team after an impressive comeback.

Carried by this momentum, Novak held at love at the beginning of the second set before two marathon games on both sides with almost ten deuces and five break chances. The servers saved them all and stayed unbroken, with Casper leveling the score at 2-2 with a hold at love.

Losing ground for a bit, the Norwegian suffered a break at love in game six that sent Djokovic 4-2 in front, with the Serb firing a service winner to confirm the advantage and open a 5-2 gap. Returning in game eight, Novak wasted the first match point after a forehand mistake, allowing Casper to erase the second with a brave forehand winner.

After five deuces, the youngster held with a service winner and reduced the deficit to 3-5, hoping for a break in his last opportunity. However, that didn't happen after a hold at love from Novak thanks to a service winner, with the Serb advancing into the 52nd Masters 1000 final.