Djokovic back to his best in Rome

Azarenka overcomes Cibulkova at Miami Open

Djokovic played his best match of the year when he came back from set down to defeat Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open on Friday.

The Serb rallied to earn a fine 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over the world number 24 in a high quality match that featured a mammoth third set under the lights in Rome.

It was a poor start from the Serb, with a deadly accurate Nishikori breaking him in the opening service game and again mid-set to comfortably wrap up the opening salvo.

But the less than ideal start seemed to spur on Djokovic, who reeled off four games in quick succession on his way to forcing a deciding set.

It appeared the duo saved their best tennis for the marathon final set, which enthralled the crowd for over an hour. Both players were forced to clean lines just to hold serve as the match hung in the balance.

But it would be Djokovic who would persevere, breaking the Japanese star twice and winning the final three action-packed games via pure attritional tennis.

The victory earns the former world number one a semi-final date with old rival Rafael Nadal. Djokovic leads their head-to-head stat 26-24, with Nadal having won their last encounter at the Madrid Open in 2017. The match will mark Djokovic’s first semi-final of 2018.