Novak Djokovic admitted he had to ‘dig deep’ against Stefanos Tsitsipas to win what he described as his toughest match of the year.
The Rome Masters quarterfinal started on Friday but had to be suspended overnight due to torrential rain in the Italian capital.
They returned on Saturday to play to a conclusion, though, with both men producing some outstanding tennis in an absorbing contest.
However, after exchanging multiple breaks in the third set, it was Djokovic who got himself over the line with an epic 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 win.
“There are many things to say about this match,” Djokovic said after the match, as quoted by Sasa Ozmo.
“I feel like we’ve played two matches, and we did. Yesterday he was the better player and started better today, but I’ve managed to hold my nerves and break his serve in important moments.
“[I had a] bit of luck, bit of mental strength and bit of the right tactics at the right time. One shot, not one point, one shot decided the winner today.
This is a huge boost for Djokovic before Paris, all the talk about insufficient preparation doesn’t hold up. Exactly what Nadal got against Shapovalov, but even more so because of the opponent. Tsitsipas lost, but once again proved he is the top challenger at Garros.
— Saša Ozmo (@ozmo_sasa) May 15, 2021
“I had to dig very deep, but I believed I could win, you can always fight. He is in a fantastic shape, winning Monte-Carlo and reaching the final in Barca.
“Today the conditions were different, ball was bouncing higher, yesterday it was slow and muddy.
“It was probably the toughest match of 2021 for me.”
Djokovic will return to the court later on Saturday to play his semi-final against Lorenzo Sonego after the Italian beat Andrey Rublev in the last eight.
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