Novak Djokovic faces rising Norwegian Casper Ruud as he looks to book a place in the Rome Masters final for…
Novak Djokovic faces rising Norwegian Casper Ruud as he looks to book a place in the Rome Masters final for the tenth time.
Novak Djokovic vs Casper Ruud | Rome Masters SF | 20/9/2020, 1pm BSTDjokovic -4.5 games 10/11 Bet Now! New Customers only. 18+. T&C’s Apply. begambleaware.org.
Djokovic vs Ruud is live from Rome on Sunday 20 September, 2pm local/1pm BST
Since making his main-draw debut at the Rome Masters in 2006, Novak Djokovic has reached the final nine times, including six of the past seven years, and despite a tough match against qualifier Dominik Koepfer the world no. 1 has put himself in position to do so again.
Djokovic dropped a set to Koepfer before coming through 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to set up a first encounter with Casper Ruud, the first Norwegian man ever to make a Masters 1000 Series semifinal.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
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Djokovic vs Ruud: Head-to-head
Novak Djokovic and Casper Ruud have never played before.
Djokovic vs Ruud: Preview
After a lengthy tussle with compatriot Filip Krajinovic to reach the quarterfinals, with the first set alone taking 88 minutes, Novak Djokovic’s win over qualifier Dominik Koepfer only took a few minutes longer than his straight-sets win over Krajinovic.
Koepfer had beaten Gael Monfils and Lorenzo Musetti, among others, to reach the quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 Series event for the first time, and he played a match which underlined exactly why he’s headed towards the top 50 fast. But it was not all about his good tennis. Djokovic struggled throughout to find his range on his forehand, and errors off that wing were the keynote of a scrappy performance; racing to a 4-0 lead, then losing three straight games before closing out the first set, Djokovic was again unable to consolidate a break lead in the second, getting so frustrated midway through it that he smashed a racquet.
Koepfer broke serve to level the match, but Djokovic tightened up his game in the third, breaking early and this time not handing the advantage back. By the time he closed out the win, he had created 21 break points – but only converted six, and failed to save a single one of the four he faced.
Now 29-1 in 2020 and yet to lose a completed match this season, Djokovic’s struggles in a match like that must be seen in the context of both his achievements and the strain that this most unusual year is putting on everybody. Still he will want to make much more of an emphatic statement when he takes on Ruud in Sunday’s semifinals.
Saturday was a day of milestones for Ruud, who became the first Norwegian man to make a Masters 1000 Series semifinal – surpassing the mark set by his father Christian, who reached the Rome quarterfinals in 1997 – and also claimed his first victory over a top-10 opponent in five attempts, beating Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5).
The 21-year-old Ruud had lost in straight sets to Berrettini in the third round of the US Open, but on clay it was a whole different story. Berrettini, whose combination of big serve, big forehand and slice backhand is a more natural fit for hard courts, powered his way through the first set, but in the long run, Ruud’s heavier topspin, better movement and affinity for patient, well-constructed rallies won the day, despite relinquishing an early break lead in the decider and having to come back from 2-4 down in the third-set tie-break.
Ruud had great success moving Berrettini around and forcing him back behind the baseline, but needless to say, these tactics won’t meet with the same success against Djokovic, who has absolutely no difficulty winning points behind the baseline and won’t – even on Saturday’s form – give up the kinds of errors. We’ve often seen Djokovic brush off poorer performances against less threatening opponents to bring his best in the semifinals and finals and I expect to see that again on Sunday.