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Novak Djokovic makes amends after nearly hitting a ballboy with a return. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Novak Djokovic receives treatment for a left ankle injury in his semi-final match against Kei Nishikori. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Andy Murray eases pasts lucky loser Lucas Pouille to book a spot in the Rome final. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: When the main draw of the 2016 Internazionali BNL d’Italia was made, one half featured Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the first time ever on the ATP World Tour. Who would emerge from the other half? Lucky loser Lucas Pouille is one win away from following his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final and semi-final with a berth in the final.
Pouille is the second lucky loser ever to reach an ATP Masters 1000 semi-final, joining Thomas Johansson in the record books. Johansson earned four main draw wins at Toronto in 2004 before falling to Federer in the semi-finals. Pouille, on the other hand, has beaten only Ernests Gulbis and David Ferrer to reach the Rome semis, capitalizing on a first-round bye when No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew and a quarter-final walkover from Juan Monaco. The luckiest of lucky losers, Pouille fell to Mikhail Kukushkin in the final round of qualifying on May 8.
Madrid finalist Andy Murray did what Pouille couldn’t by beating Kukushkin in the main draw. The World No. 3 has not dropped a set all week and will return to No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday. Pouille is projected to rise to around No. 32, which will be a new career-high for the 22-year-old Frenchman. Should Pouille defeat Murray in their first FedEx ATP Head 2 Head meeting, he will play Djokovic or No. 6 seed Kei Nishikori in the final for the first time as well. The last lucky loser to reach an ATP World Tour final was Marcel Granollers at Valencia in 2010.
Following Murray vs. Pouille, Djokovic and Nishikori meet in an ATP Masters 1000 semi-final for the second time in as many weeks. Djokovic was broken when he served for the match, but held on for a 63 76(4) victory at Madrid on May 7. The World No. 1 is on a seven-match win streak against Nishikori, including a quarter-final victory in Rome last season. Djokovic has also swept 16 straight matches against Top 10 players overall, saving five set points in the second set of his 75 76(4) victory over fifth-ranked Rafael Nadal on Friday.
In the first doubles semi-final, Madrid finalists Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea meet Indian Wells finalists Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock. Then, three-time Rome champions Bob and Mike Bryan take on 2014 Roland Garros champions Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Kei Nishikori was at his best in a 6-3, 7-5 win over Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals of the Internazionale BNL d’Italia on Friday. The sixth seed, who has won all four sets played against the Austrian in two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings (Halle 2015), will face World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.
“He is a tough opponent,” Nishikori said. “He hits very heavy on both wings. Great backhands. Not many weaknesses.
“It was really a battle of groundstrokes from the baseline. At the moment I’m playing really well. I returned well. I tried to stay because he has a great kick serve.”
Thiem, who upset World No. 2 Roger Federer in the third round, attempted to take over the match with his power. He raced to a 3-1 lead, but saw Nishikori win the next five games to claim the first set. Nishikori had not dropped a set this week in Rome since losing the first set against Viktor Troicki in his opening match.
Nishikori’s lone hiccup in the second set came while serving at 1-2. Down 0/40, the Japanese saved three break points to keep his 22-year-old opponent at bay. A late break proved to be the difference for Nishikori, who converted on his first match point to improve his 2016 clay-court record to 10-2 (29-8 overall). Thiem fired 21 winners in the 98-minute encounter, but made 39 unforced errors to drop to 32-10 on the year (16-5 on clay). Nishikori finished with 18 winners and 14 unforced errors.
“[My leg] is a bit sore but I’ll be okay. I will try to recover well tonight,” said Nishikori.
Djokovic, the top player in the Emirates ATP Rankings, leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry against Nishikori 8-2. Nishikori’s most recently victory over the Serb came in the 2014 US Open semi-finals.
Losing a big match is always a tough pill to swallow, but there was no bitterness in Rafael Nadal’s words after the Spaniard fell to Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-6(4) in the quarter-finals of the Internazionale BNL d’Italia on Friday.
“I am so happy to be in a close match, and I have to congratulate him. He played great,” Nadal said. “We played a beautiful match. I was a bit unlucky today. I had so many chances in the first set.
“But when somebody is winning as much as him for the past years, it’s so important to [be opportunistic]. He hit great shots in important moments. That's it.”
Despite the loss, Nadal has re-established himself as one of the best clay-courters in the world. He is 15-2 in the European clay-court swing and took home the title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and at the Barcelona Open BancSabadell.
“I’ve been playing well during the whole clay court season,” Nadal said. “It's true that in Madrid I didn't play well in the last two matches [against Joao Sousa and Andy Murray], but in general I'm playing well in most of the matches most of the time. Today I was mentally fighting for every point, hitting good shots. I was very, very, very close this afternoon, and that's positive.
“I’m not disappointed. I was competing at the highest level against the best player. Playing a match like this gives me confidence,” Nadal, who is now winless against Djokovic in their past seven FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, added. “I’m happy to be part of this rivalry. We’ll talk about this when we finish our career, hopefully a long time from now.
“I feel lucky and unlucky at the same time, to be playing in the same era as [Novak].”
As a professional, it took Andy Murray 10 years to claim his first ATP World Tour title on clay. Now, the No. 3 player in the Emirates ATP Rankings is a force to be reckoned with on the surface, reaching the semi-finals of the past three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, all on red clay (Monte-Carlo, Madrid and Rome).
“I think I'm getting rewarded now for the work that I put in over the years on this surface,” said Murray, who downed David Goffin 6-1, 7-5 to move into the semi-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. “Obviously took me time to feel comfortable on it. But I didn't sort of just give up on clay and say, ‘You know what? This isn't my surface. I'm not going to prepare for it properly or train hard.’”
From an early age, the Glasgow native has worked hard to address his weakness. He spent his formative years training on clay in Spain and developed a game predicated on being able to find solutions against any opponent, in any condition. That flexibility paid off on Friday.
“It was very, very difficult conditions, very windy. [The wind] was changing direction all the time. There was obviously a lot of the clay getting blown off the court, as well,” Murray noted. “It's not always that easy to move when it's like that because it's changing every point. Sometimes, there's no clay on the court at all and it's like a hard court. So it is very tough.
“But I have had good results in the wind, so I can't complain when it's like that because I have won matches in those conditions. But it's not easy to play in.”
The red-hot Goffin, who scored a stunning 6-0, 6-0 against Tomas Berdych in the previous round, had the wind to his back and broke Murray’s serve in the opening game of the match, but the Brit rebounded strongly, reeling off six consecutive games to secure the first set.
“I knew that he must have been playing well coming into the match, and I went in expecting it to be very tough. He got off to the best possible start. But it was very hard from that end of the court. You're playing right into the wind,” Murray said, “But the most pleasing thing about the match today was each time I got broken, I broke back right away, so I never allowed him to get any momentum.”
“I didn't necessarily expect to be doing as well as I have been the last couple of years, but I deserve it because I have worked hard for it,” said Murray, who reached the final of the Mutua Madrid Open (l. to Djokovic) last week and the semi-finals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (l. to Nadal) in April. “I haven't been in this position in these tournaments very often. Even in Monte-Carlo, I think I had only been to the semis once before this year. They are great tournaments with a lot of history.
Andy Murray overcomes David Goffin in Rome and will face Lucas Pouille. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Rally of the season? Watch Novak Djokovic do whatever it takes to clinch the first set against Rafael Nadal in Rome. Watch live tennis at TennisTV.com. Photo: Getty Images
In their closest contest for almost two years, in which the Serb saved five set points when Nadal served for the second set at 5-4, Djokovic rallied from a break down in both sets to thwart Nadal in two hours and 25 minutes. It marked the Serb’s seventh straight win over Nadal and saw him improve to a 26-23 advantage in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. He has won 15 straight sets against Nadal since the Spaniard prevailed in their 2014 Roland Garros final contest.
"I held my nerve at the clutch moments," said Djokovic in an on-court TV interview. "Even though I had nervy beginnings to both sets, with some good games and good play in the crucial moments, I managed to win. It's a straight-sets win, but it feels like we played five sets.
“Winning against Nadal is the ultimate challenge on clay courts and one of the toughest challenges we have in sport. I have to be very pleased with the way I handled myself in the big moments today. I won against one of my biggest rivals on his preferred surface. We must not forget he’s in form. He won Monte-Carlo and Barcelona and has played well the past couple of weeks. That gives me confidence for the rest of this tournament.”
The Serb had a slow start against Thomaz Bellucci in the third round, and struggled to match Nadal's energy and intensity in the opening exchanges of their 49th tour-level meeting. But Djokovic worked his way into the match, raising his level as the set went on.
Nadal drew first blood with a break to lead 3-2 as Djokovic netted a forehand. But the Belgrade native fired himself up after prevailing in an 11-minute, six-second game to hold serve in the seventh game and stay in touch. Djokovic then levelled in the eighth game, converting his third break point as Nadal miss-fired on a forehand.
In a pulsating 12th game, Djokovic kept the pressure on Nadal and was rewarded on his fourth set point. The Serb hung in the rally with strong defence, before being drawn into the net by a Nadal drop shot and exhibiting superb reflexes to poke away a high forehand volley, stealing the set from the Spaniard.
Nadal again started the stronger of the two in the second set, engineering a 3-1 lead as Djokovic’s frustrations crept to the surface. But at the crunch moment in the set, it was Djokovic who found his best tennis. Nadal served to level the match at 5-4, but failed to convert five set points. Djokovic then took his first break point, attacking Nadal with his backhand to force the error and level at 5-5.
In the ensuing tie-break, Nadal was always behind and despite twice rallying from a mini-break deficit, he couldn’t stop Djokovic sealing victory on his first match point at 6-4.
“I was fortunate in important moments,” said Djokovic. “But I managed to take him out of his comfort zone in important moments and didn’t give him always the same look. I thought he played high quality tennis. He tried to step in. He was trying to play aggressive. But towards the end, I guess I was a bit more fortunate."
Between them, Nadal and Djokovic have accounted for the past 11 editions of this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament. Nadal has lifted the trophy seven times, with Djokovic winning the title in the past two years to add to his victories in 2008 and 2011.
Djokovic came into Rome on the back of winning his 64th tour-level title in Madrid, where he defeated defending champion Andy Murray in the final. The right-hander is chasing his sixth title of the season, having also triumphed in Doha (d. Nadal), at the Australian Open (d. Murray) and in Indian Wells (d. Raonic) and Miami (d. Nishikori).
That's how you end a rally to hold serve! Watch Novak Djokovic rip a backhand cross-court against Rafael Nadal to win a crucial point during the first serve. Watch live tennis at TennisTV.com. Photo credit: Getty Images.
David Goffin and some other lucky fans try out a virtual reality experience with Peugeot and Drive To Tennis during the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Video: Drive To Tennis
The Lotto Arena will play host to the new ATP World Tour 250-level hard-court tournament. Get Tickets
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Watch David Goffin come up with great shot after great shot against Andy Murray during their quarter-final contest at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. Watch live tennis at TennisTV.com.
The Scot is bidding to reach his fourth ATP World Tour clay-court final and goes on to face French lucky loser Lucas Pouille for the first time.
Goffin came into the quarter-final contest on the back of a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Tomas Berdych in the third round on Thursday - an emphatic way to claim the third Top 10 win of his career.
The Belgian looked set to pick up where he left off as he broke Murray in the first game. But Murray immediately struck back. In a dominant display, the Scot reeled off the next six games to clinch the opening set.
The blustery conditions made life difficult for both players in the second set, but it was Murray who ultimately prevailed after seven service breaks. The Scot rallied from 1-3 down to serve for the match at 5-4. He failed to close it out at the first time of asking, but persevered in a nine-minute 11th game to convert his fifth break point. He served out victory in the 12th game after one hour and 35 minutes.
"Obviously I knew that he must have been playing well coming into the match, and I went in expecting it to be very tough," said Murray. "He got off to the best possible start. But it was very hard from that end of the court. You're playing right into the wind.
"It was a tough one today with the conditions," said Goffin. "With the wind, it was tough to be precise, to be solid also and to attack really well. I had some opportunities to win the second, had game point to lead 4-1, and then at the end of the set it was really tight. I had some chances in the second but he was better."
The 28-year-old Murray is coming off a runner-up showing at the Mutua Madrid Open, where, as defending champion, he lost out to Novak Djokovic in the final. The Dunblane native is bidding to win his first trophy of the season, having also finished runner-up to Djokovic in the Australian Open final.
The 22-year-old Pouille was granted a place in his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final after Juan Monaco withdrew from their clash with a left hip injury.
Having been No. 91 in mid-February, Pouille is now projected to jump around 20 spots and close on a place in the Top 30 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday. The Frenchman has enjoyed a breakthrough start to the season, reaching his first ATP World Tour final in Bucharest (l. to Verdasco) and making the fourth round in Miami (l. to Simon).
Pouille has made the most of his opportunity this week. After falling in the final round of qualifying, the Frenchman was awarded a place in the main draw after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled out. He beat Ernests Gulbis in the second round before upsetting David Ferrer in the third round.
"He's very good," said Murray of Pouille. "By the end of this year he'll be up close to the Top 20 in the world, potentially higher. I think after this tournament he will be around 30, at least. It's going to be a difficult match for me. I don't expect it to be easy."
Watch live doubles action from Rome on TennisTV.com
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan advanced to their second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final of the season on Friday with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares. The Bryans lost their serve once but broke the World No. 2 doubles team three times to advance to the Internazionali BNL d'Italia semi-finals.
“We were very sharp,” Mike Bryan said in a post-match TV interview. “It was a little blustery out there but I thought we played sharp the whole way through: serving, returning, showed good reflexes. We changed our strategy a bit to play a little bit more i-formation, which worked like a charm. All in all, a great performance.”
The American twins won 78 per cent of their service points (38/49) in the win. Had Murray/Soares prevailed, the Brit would have reclaimed No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings, with current No. 1 Marcelo Melo losing with Ivan Dodig in the second round in Rome. Now Melo will stay No. 1.
“This was a good match and good confidence for us,” Bob Bryan said. “Those guys have been playing tough all year, so to go out and beat them in straight sets, it puts a smile on our faces.”
The No. 5 seeds will face Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the semi-finals. The Frenchmen beat Oliver Marach and Marcin Matkowski 4-6, 7-5, 10-8 on Friday. No. 8 seeds Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil also moved into the semi-finals, beating Pablo Cuevas and Marcel Granollers 6-4, 7-6(4).
"We played well today and we're happy to get through, beating a tough clay-court team," Pospisil said. "We found a great grove... We will look to take that into our next matches."
Mutua Madrid Open runner-ups Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea advanced to their second consecutive semi-final. They beat German Philipp Kohlschreiber and Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4 in 56 minutes. "[It] was a good, clean match today," Bopanna said. "Happy to be through to the semis."
Lucas Pouille is through to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final. Hear what the Frenchman has to say about the achievement. Watch live tennis at TennisTV.com.
Watch highlights as Novak Djokovic battles past Rafael Nadal. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo: Getty Images
Andy Murray will face Lucas Pouille, while Novak Djokovic will take on Kei Nishikori in Rome on Saturday. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo: Getty Images
Ballboy intervention is required when a moth drops in on Dominic Thiem in Rome. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo: Getty Images