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Djokovic Battles Past Raonic For Fifth Rome Final Spot

Rome, Italy

Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic celebrates reaching his fifth Rome final after a three-hour battle on Saturday.

Novak Djokovic will attempt to capture his third title at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia and his 19th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy on Sunday at the Foro Italico in Rome. He will compete against seven-time champion Rafael Nadal in the final.

Second seed Djokovic earned a place in his 65th tour-level final the hard way, completing a 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over eighth seed Milos Raonic in just over three hours on Saturday afternoon. He is looking to lift his 44th trophy overall in his fifth Rome final.

"It was a big win," said Djokovic. "Because it gives me a lot of strength and belief that I hope I can carry into tomorrow’s final and the rest of the season.

"He played at a high level, especially on his serve, and I cannot recall the last time when I felt so helpless in the return games. I couldn't really read his serve."

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Raonic played with great confidence and discipline in the first set, which he might have won 6-4. The Canadian struck an unintentional inside-out backhand winner, for which he apologised, at 4-5, 30/30 to create his first set point opportunity. But Djokovic kept his nerve to take the set to a tie-break.

Djokovic led 3-0 in the tie-break, but Raonic responded by winning six straight points. Raonic wrapped up the set in 72 minutes, having hit 21 winners, including eight aces. He saved all eight break points he faced.

Djokovic and Raonic each broke serve once en route to the second set tie-break. It turned in Djokovic's favour at 5-4, when he hit a big forehand winner. Raonic then hit a backhand slice long to give Djokovic the set, which lasted 70 minutes. Though Raonic hit 24 winners to Djokovic's 12, the two-time former champion in Rome found a way to win.

Djokovic broke Raonic to 30 in the opening game and final game of the deciding set.

"He did surprise me with his movement," said Djokovic. "He is moving really well and has improved his backhand down the line, especially. He comes to the net and has improved his variety."

Said Raonic, “I did the things I wanted to do. I didn't execute in the moments I’d liked, but I did create a lot of opportunities, which was good. I wish I had played a few situations a little differently. I think I had the right approach.

“I knew if I brought my best tennis, I would be able to give myself and opportunity, which I was able to do today. It came down to a few moments and just performed better than I did.”

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©Erika Tanaka

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