Defending Italian Open champion, tennis’ #1 player Novak Djokovic took on young Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas in a nail-biting quarterfinal on Saturday in the muddy red clay in Rome.
Tsitsipas lost 2-1 to Djokovic, with a score of 4-6, 7-5, and 7-5.
The match was originally scheduled to take place on Friday, however, due to heavy rain it was postponed and rescheduled to take place on Saturday.
The Serbian and Tsitsipas appear to be playing at their personal best right now — neither player has even lost a set so far this week at the Open. But Friday saw an incessant rain pelt down on the red clay court, making footing extremely tricky.
The Greek phenom was tasked with trying to best his rival after his bitter loss to Djokovic in the 2020 French Open at Paris’ Roland Garros Stadium.
At the time, Tsitsipas told Reuters “I wish I could have figured certain things earlier which, I don’t know, I felt like it was a total demolition, the fact that I tried those things in practice and tried to implement them in the match.
“It was something new. I wish I wouldn’t have tried these things and tried to stay to my ordinary and basic way of feeling the ball and also trying to dictate the game.
“I think that was a huge mistake today, that I tried this for two sets in a row, then came back to my old way of doing things.”
Yesterday, Djokovic beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina by the brutal score of 6-2, 6-1 in Rome, while Tsitsipas dismissed Matteo Berrettini, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
Play was stopped, however, due to rain, with Djokovic at 3-4 in games in the first set.
Tsitsipas served at the resumption of play.
Tsitsipas continuing to improve his clay game
The 2020 French Open saw Djokovic and Tsitsipas duel it out in a marathon match with a score of 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1; won by Djokovic after a valiant fight by the young Greek.
Although he has sown in the past that he can indeed play on the clay, Tsitsipas has not favored that surface for the most part — until this year. So far in 2021, the Greek star has lost only to the masterful Rafael Nadal in Barcelona and clay specialist Casper Ruud in Madrid.
Despite Tsitsipas’ new clay prowess, showing his ability to cover the whole court, he was still considered the underdog in today’s match against Djokovic, with the Serbian listed as a -143 favorite according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Tennis mavens believed Saturday’s showdown between the veteran and the challenger would amount to whether or not Djokovic can control the match and finish his points.
However, the preternaturally talented Greek phenom defended himself very well during their last match, garnering points in almost impossible situations.
This was the seventh time Djokovic has met the Greek player, with the Serbian leading the series 4-2 overall.