Nadal battles past valiant Djokovic

Djokovic plays down nerves over recent form

Novak Djokovic could not topple Rafael Nadal on his favourite surface at the Italian Open on Saturday, but he did put up a great fight.

Nadal completed a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 victory over Djokovic in Rome to advance to yet another clay court final, but for Djokovic there was still a lot to be encouraged about.

It was the first time the struggling Serb had made it to a ATP semi-final all year, and he was able to provide the King of Clay with a real challenge before going down in straight sets.

Djokovic was particularly competitive in the first set, which could easily have ended up going his way.

After forcing Nadal to save two break points in the opening game of the match, Djokovic gave away a break of his own in the sixth game to go 2-4 down. But he fought back superbly by breaking back as the Spaniard served for the set at 5-3.

It was left to a tie-break to decide the opener, and though both men looked shaky at times, giving away several mini-breaks each, ultimately Nadal was able to finish the stronger of the two and take the breaker 7-4.

Having worn Djokovic down in the first set, Nadal was able to take control in the second, wrapping up the victory with breaks in the third and ninth games to book his place in the final where he will take on the winner of this evening’s match between Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev.

Regardless of his opponent, however, the record-busting Spaniard will be the odds-on favourite to collect an eighth Italian Open crown come Sunday.