Titles for Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev in the Monte Carlo Masters and Madrid Open, respectively, raised hypothesis once more that the Big Three — together with 39-year-old Roger Federer — was expiring.
Well, once more, not but.
Djokovic, who turns 34 in every week, and Nadal, who turns 35 subsequent month, received a complete of three matches over youthful gamers on Saturday and will renew their record-setting rivalry in the Italian Open final on Sunday — precisely two weeks earlier than Roland Garros begins.
“Rafa and I had a little laugh today in the locker room after I won against Tsitsipas,” Djokovic mentioned.
“We sort of joked round about, you recognize, that the previous guys are nonetheless not giving up.
”(Nadal) mentioned someplace just a few days in the past that Roger, him and I are previous. But I disagree with him. We’re displaying some totally different, recent power.”
They took vastly totally different paths to the final.
Djokovic regained his cool after throwing his racket off the courtroom to beat Tsitsipas 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a grueling, rain-delayed quarterfinal that started on Friday.
Then the top-ranked Serb returned just a few hours later in opposition to native favourite Lorenzo Sonego and wasted a late break and two match factors in the second set of a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory in his second match of the day.
In all, Djokovic spent practically 5 hours on courtroom.
“First of all I need to recover. I don’t have much time,” Djokovic mentioned.
“Hopefully I’ll have fresh legs, because that’s what I’ll need to play against Rafa.” Nadal stored his time on courtroom to a minimal by ending the stunning clay-court run of big-serving American Reilly Opelka by 6-4, 6-4.
“I played the match that I had to play,” Nadal mentioned. “I had two breaks (in) two units. That’s a constructive factor for me. (Being) in the final once more right here means rather a lot.”
A day earlier, Nadal eradicated Zverev in straight units.
“In terms of preparation for Roland Garros, I consider the job done,” Nadal added. “Tomorrow is not at all preparation. … (It’s) a final, an important one, and I want to be competitive.”
Djokovic and Nadal have met an Open-era report 56 instances, with Djokovic main the sequence 29-27. Their earlier assembly got here in final yr’s French Open final, the place Nadal received in straight units. It would be the sixth time they meet in the Rome final, with Nadal holding a 3-2 edge.
“Definitely my biggest rival of all time,” Djokovic mentioned.
“Even in spite of everything we now have been via in our careers, there may be nonetheless this pleasure when we now have to face one another. That’s going to be the case so long as we play one another on this degree.
“And I’m really glad that we’re showing that we’re not backing off on the Next Gen attacks.”
Nadal has received the Italian Open a report 9 instances, whereas Djokovic has 5 titles on the Foro Italico.
The girls’s final will function French Open champion Iga Swiatek in opposition to 2019 Rome champion Karolina Pliskova.
Swiatek additionally had to play twice on Saturday. First, she eradicated two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 7-5 then she beat 17-year-old Coco Gauff 7-6 (3), 6-3.
Pliskova reached her third consecutive Rome final by outlasting Petra Martic 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.
The 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Opelka hadn’t dropped a set this week and threatened early in opposition to Nadal with a sequence of big forehands. But Nadal saved 4 break factors in the fourth sport of the match then broke in the following sport to take management.
Djokovic fought again from breaks of his serve in every of the final two units in opposition to Tsitsipas.
“I’m just really, really glad to overcome this challenge,” Djokovic mentioned.
“It’s in all probability the hardest match of the yr for me up to now.”
Sonego was backed by a loud crowd when he rallied previous seventh-ranked Andrey Rublev 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to attain his first Masters semifinal. Their match was washed out Friday.
Fans have been allowed to fill 25% of capability as a part of the Italian authorities’s reopening plan.
Against Djokovic, Sonego urged the gang to get louder in the important thing moments however in the end Djokovic’s expertise paid off because the Serb gained a measure of revenge after getting routed 6-2, 6-1 by the Italian in Vienna final yr.
“It was an electric atmosphere out there on the court,” Djokovic mentioned.