Novak Djokovic joins Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer in exclusive 'Club 60'
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 13214
Novak Djokovic made the Rome Masters debut in his first notable season in 2007. The young Serb beat Marcos Baghdatis and Robin Soderling before losing to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-final. Novak claimed the Foro Italico title a year later to kick off an incredible journey that has brought him five trophies so far in the Italian capital.
Djokovic is fighting for the sixth this week, beating three rivals to enter the semis and facing Casper Ruud in Saturday's clash for a place in the final. Novak came to Rome with 59 wins at this event, and he became the third player with 60 triumphs at a single Masters 1000 tournament.
That record was reserved for Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and Novak has joined his greatest rivals on the list after passing the first obstacle in the Italian capital. Nadal has won 73 matches in Monte Carlo and 69 in Rome, while Federer stands on 66 in Indian Wells.
Djokovic has now entered the exclusive 'Club 60' and will try to celebrate the feat with the sixth title.
Novak Djokovic is the third player with 60 wins at a single Masters 1000 event.
Novak defeated Rafa in the 2011 Rome final before losing the final to the Spaniard a year later.
Since 2014, Djokovic has been the semi-finalist in Rome, winning back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 and adding another two years ago. Last year, Nadal toppled Djokovic in the title clash and prevented him from celebrating the milestone 60th win a year earlier.
It came at this week's second round against Aslan Karatsev, whom Novak beat 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and a half. The Serb lost serve once and delivered four breaks to control the scoreboard and make a winning start. Novak reached the 16th Rome Masters quarter-finals from as many trips following a rock-solid 6-2, 6-2 victory over Stan Wawrinka, whom he beat in the 2008 title clash.
Djokovic served well and delivered five return games to leave a great rival behind and find himself in the last eight. Novak had to work hard to remain on the title course against Felix Auger-Aliassime, beating the Canadian 7-5, 7-6 in their first clash on the Tour.
Djokovic needed two hours and nine minutes to prevail, although he could have sealed the deal earlier after serving for both sets. The young Canadian erased the deficit to prolong them, but it was insufficient to force a decider.
Novak won 14 points more, defending three out of five break chances and stealing Felix's serve five times from eight opportunities. Auger-Aliassime had more service winners and the advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes.
Djokovic erased that and forged the lead in the more advanced exchanges to set the clash against Casper Ruud.