After Cincinnati, world no. 1 Novak Djokovic will compete in another Masters 1000 final in Rome. The four-time Rome champion prevailed against 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, delivering three breaks to emerge at the top after a grueling battle with the first-time Masters 1000 semi-finalist. Novak had 37 winners and 19 unforced errors, with Casper challenging him with 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, pushing each other to the limits all the time. 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 to get his name on the scoreboard. Dominating from his stronger wing, the youngster grabbed a break in the third game when the Serb sprayed a backhand error, holding 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, creating two break points in the next game that Casper denied to avoid a break 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.
The youngster wasted two set points, dropping four straight points to offer a break to Novak and keep world no. 1 in the opener. In game 11, Djokovic had to work hard to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard, defending three break chances for another crucial hold.
Novak Djokovic is through to his 52nd Masters 1000 final.
Serving to remain in the set, Ruud got broken at 30 following a forehand error, handing the set to Djokovic who was roaring 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 to stay 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, with Casper saving the second with a brave forehand winner for another deuce.
After five deuces, the youngster held with a service winner, reducing the deficit to 3-5 and hoping for a break on Novak's serve. However, that didn't happen as Novak held at love with a service winner to wrap up the encounter and set the title clash against Diego Schwartzman or Denis Shapovalov.