Novak Djokovic is through to the semi-final at the Rome Masters, facing Casper Ruud in a battle for the final. It's Novak's 73rd Masters 1000 semi-final, moving closer to Rafael Nadal's record and advancing into the last four for the 13th time in Rome.
Thus, Novak became the second player with 13 semi-finals at a single Masters 1000 event, joining Nadal, who has played in the Monte Carlo semi-final 14 times. Djokovic made the Foro Italico debut in 2007 and lost to Nadal in the quarter-final.
A year later, the Serb went all the way to claim his first clay-court Masters 1000 title. Novak lost the 2009 final to Nadal and bounced back two years later to overpower the Spaniard and lift the second trophy. Rafa reclaimed the title over Novak in 2012, and the Serb responded with back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.
Djokovic has played in nine consecutive Rome Masters semi-finals since 2014, enough to bring 13 semi-finals to his tally and earn a nice milestone.
Novak Djokovic is through to his 13th Rome Masters semi-final.
Novak kicked off this week's campaign with his 60th victory in Romke, beating Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and a half.
The Serb lost serve once and delivered four breaks to control the scoreboard and kick off the action on a high note. Novak reached the 16th Rome Masters quarter-finals from as many trips to Foro Italico following a rock-solid 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Stan Wawrinka.
It was a clash of the 2008 finalists, and Djokovic delivered an expected victory following a reliable performance on serve and return. Novak had to work hard to remain on the title course against Felix Auger-Aliassime on Friday night, beating the Canadian 7-5, 7-6 in their first clash on the Tour.
Djokovic needed two hours and nine minutes to topple a top-10 rival, 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. Novak led 5-3 in the opener before Felix climbed back to 5-5. World no. 1 stayed calm and grabbed the next two games for 7-5.
Auger-Aliassime trailed 5-2 in the second set and fended off a match point in game eight to prolong the action. He broke Novak when the Serb served for the victory at 5-3, and they stayed neck and neck until the tie break. Djokovic remained focused and won seven out of eight points to emerge at the top and advance into the last four.