- 20 Sep 2020
Novak Djokovic is as motivated as ever to overcome Diego Schwartzman and win a fifth Internazionali d’Italia title but admits it will be “strange” facing someone other than Rafael Nadal in the final.
The 33-year-old beat Casper Ruud 7-5 6-3 in Sunday’s semi-final, saving two set points in the opener as he stayed on course for a record-breaking 36th ATP Masters 1000 crown.
Djokovic is currently tied with Rafael Nadal on 35 titles, but the Spanish clay-court maestro suffered a shock quarter-final elimination in Rome at the hands of Schwartzman.
Djokovic: “With Nadal in the final and without Nadal in the final makes a big difference”
However, the world number one, who has faced Nadal five times in the final of this competition, will not take Schwartzman lightly after he saw off Denis Shapovalov 6-4 5-7 7-6 (7-4) in the other semi-final.
“Most of the finals that I reached in the big events on clay I played against Rafa,” he said in his on-court interview. “It’s going to be strange not facing him. Obviously I’m not super fresh and young as I maybe was five, 10 years ago, but I still feel physically really good and I love playing in Rome. I always want to do well here. I feel great support and great energy from the crowd.”
— Internazionali Bnl (@InteBNLdItalia) September 20, 2020
“With Nadal in the final and without Nadal in the final makes a big difference. Nevertheless, I will not underestimate anybody that steps on the court against me tomorrow.”
Djokovic: “This is what I work for as much as anybody else on the Tour”
Djokovic was taken to a deciding set by Dominik Koepfer in the quarter-finals and was made to work hard by compatriot Filip Krajinovic in the last 16.
The Australian Open champion, who won the Western & Southern Open last month, acknowledges that time is not on his side in his quest to set more records.
“[Making the] final at such a big event means a lot even after 15 years of being on the Tour,” he said. “I still am as motivated [as ever] to get my hands on the trophy. This is what I work for as much as anybody else on the Tour. Of course as the time passes by, the tougher it gets. Hopefully I can get another big trophy.”
A hard-fought battle for Schwartzman
Schwartzman needed three hours and 15 minutes to beat Shapovalov later on Sunday, the eighth seed reaching his first Masters 1000 final with a thrilling victory.
In what was the longest match of the tournament so far, Schwartzman broke his opponent in the second game of the contest and again in a mammoth 10th to edge in front.
Shapovalov dug deep to take the next set, though, setting up what proved to be a thrilling decider in the Italian capital.
The 21-year-old Canadian served for a spot in the final at 5-4, only for Schwartzman to earn the fifth of six service breaks in the final set.
And it was Nadal’s conqueror who held his nerve in the tiebreak, taking it 7-4 to edge towards his big breakthrough.