Novak Djokovic has ensured that he'll go into the French Open as the top seed after sealing a remarkable Italian Open quarter-final victory against Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.
In an ominous sign that he's close to returning to his peak level, Djokovic downed the Canadian young gun 7-5 7-6 (7-1) to book a spot in yet another semi-final in Rome.
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Djokovic is now just one win away from clinching an extraordinary 1000 wins on the ATP Tour. He'll face Norwegian fifth seed Casper Ruud in the last four.
By reaching the semi-finals in Rome, the Serb also retained his World No.1 ranking and avoided surrendering top spot to Russian Daniil Medvedev for the second time this year.
Djokovic and Auger-Aliassime were neck and neck until the Serb broke to lead 5-3, but the eighth seed fought back.
It proved only a blip though as Djokovic wrapped up the opening set in style, with a booming forehand pass from the baseline that sent the crowd wild.
The 21-year-old Aliassime was applauded by Djokovic for his display of endurance in rallies but again fell behind 5-3, only to drag himself back into the contest again.
Having forced a tiebreak though, Aliassime was no match for Djokovic, who found another gear when required.
The Serb's impressive win lit up social media, with many fans hailing it as his best performance of the year.
Remember this match. The one where Novak Djokovic found his best tennis again. 7-5 7-6 against Felix Auger-Aliassime in Rome. Absolutely awesome level.
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) May 13, 2022
I'm still in awe, what an incredible match, just ridiculous, how many times did balls come over the net that just shouldn't have, wow, props to Felix especially for putting up essentially a flawless performance and pushing Djokovic to his top gear
— David (@notrabdivad) May 13, 2022
Novak Djokovic back into the Rome semifinals with a 7-5, 7-6(1) win over Felix Auger-Aliassime. First top 10 win of the year and #1 confirmed on Monday.
The defending champion will be the top seed at Roland Garros.
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) May 13, 2022
FAA was on another level at points in that match and Novak Djokovic had to be Novak Djokovic in order to beat him.
— Scott Barclay (@BarclayCard18) May 13, 2022
Top tennis from both. Novak just awesome. Best win for the year by Novak and finally a top ten player beaten. Yeah with Nadal on one leg Novak looking better and better for RG.
— george (@george63911625) May 13, 2022
The comeback of the DJOKER
Novak Djokovic wins a beautiful game against a very good Félix Auger-Aliassime to secure career's 999th win and a semi-finals spot in Rome! pic.twitter.com/9vi2zSkrly
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) May 13, 2022
I have to say, I am very impressed with the way Novak keeps toe to toe, trading big shots, with a guy over 13 years younger, 24 pounds heavier, 5 cm taller.
Looking good, Novak Djokovic. 😍😍😍
— 🦋 Yolita🐊 (@Yolitatennis) May 13, 2022
Sensational tie-break. Best #Djokovic has played all year.
— Divan Vanvic🇨🇦🇪🇺🇩🇪 ♒ (@geonuine) May 13, 2022
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 13, 2022
Novak Djokovic aiming for 1000th win in Casper Ruud showdown
Djokovic will next face Norway's Ruud, who continued his good form on European clay as he claimed a hard-fought 7-6 (9-7) 7-5 win over Canada's Denis Shapovalov.
"He has the lethal serve honestly ... It was not easy for me at all to return. He's also returning well, moving well. He's a very complete player," Djokovic told reporters.
"I was a set and 5-2, match point, serving for the match. Credit to him for fighting back. Amazing atmosphere as well tonight."
World No.3 Alexander Zverev remained on course to win his first title of the season by beating Cristian Garin to set up a semi-final with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Zverev, who won the title in Rome in 2017, eased into the last four with a 7-5 6-2 win.
It was their first meeting since Garin upset him on home soil en route to winning the ATP 250 event in Munich three years ago.
Tsitsipas saw off home favourite Jannik Sinner 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.
The 25-year-old German will face Tsitsipas in the semi-finals of an ATP tournament for the third time in the space of a month, after the world No.5 kept his composure in front of a raucous crowd to beat Sinner.
The 23-year-old beat Zverev in Monte Carlo before clinching the title in April, but the German avenged his defeat in Madrid last week.
"He's a player that challenges me when I'm out on the court," Tsitsipas said of Zverev. "He has a lot of experience on the tour, much earlier than when I started playing here.
"We have similar game styles but he is one of the most difficult players on the tour. I have a lot of respect for him. He has achieved a lot so far and I try and look up to him."
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