Novak Djokovic's Rome Heroics: Injury Drama and Resilient Victory

Novak Djokovic needed over three hours to beat Kei Nishikori in Rome 2016

by Jovica Ilic
Novak Djokovic's Rome Heroics: Injury Drama and Resilient Victory

Novak Djokovic reached the 2016 Rome Masters final after spending five and a half hours on the court in just over a day! Novak took down Rafael Nadal in the quarter-final and embraced another thriller versus Kei Nishikori a day later.

The Serb beat the Japanese 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 in three hours and two minutes for a place in the title clash. Djokovic experienced a setback in the encounter's first game, hitting his left ankle and requiring a medical timeout. He could not find the rhythm in the opener and had to dig deep in sets two and three to overcome a persistent rival and set the title clash against Andy Murray.

It was an outstanding encounter between two great baseliners, with solid groundstrokes that brought many rallies worth showing in the shot of the day section. Kei took advantage of Novak's injury but failed to seal the deal in straight sets.

The Japanese came from 4-1 down in the decider to force a tie break, leading 3-1 but dropping six of the following eight points.

Novak Djokovic ousted Kei Nishikori after three hours in Rome 2016.

Djokovic beat Nishikori for the ninth time from 11 encounters, the eighth in a row following that shocking 2014 US Open semi-final loss.

Novak won one point more than Kei. The Serb saved five out of eight break points and converted only two out of 14 return chances, missing an opportunity to move over the top earlier. Djokovic experienced that injury in the first game and missed two break chances in game two.

Kei stepped in on the return at 1-1 and landed a forehand drop shot winner for a break and an early advantage. The Japanese saved a break point in the fourth game with a forehand winner and held to cement the lead. Firing from all cylinders in those moments, Nishikori cracked a backhand winner in the seventh game to open a 5-2 gap and serve for the set.

The lower-ranked player held at 15 in game eight to wrap up the opener in style. Novak wasted four break points in the second set's second game and denied one on his serve in the next one for 2-1. They stayed neck and neck in the upcoming games, and Djokovic made another push on the return at 4-3.

The Serb earned two break points, and the Japanese defended them to remain on the positive side. Eager to finish the set before the tie break, Novak finally broke his rival in the tenth game to steal the set 6-4 and gain a boost ahead of the decider.

With a boost on his side, Djokovic secured a break in the third set's second game and defended two break points in the next one for a 3-0 advantage. Kei played against two break points in the sixth game, saving them and closing it with a forehand winner to remain within one break deficit.

Suddenly, Nishikori found his range on the return in game seven and seized the third break point to reduce the deficit and return to the positive side. The Japanese denied a set point on serve at 4-5 with a forehand winner and landed an ace to lock the result at 5-5 and add more drama.

They closed games 11 and 12 with winners and introduced a deciding tie break. Novak trailed 3-1 and claimed five points to open a 6-3 gap and earn three match points. He seized the second with a service winner to emerge at the top and win a thrilling match for the second day in a row.

Novak Djokovic Kei Nishikori