Novak Djokovic advanced to his 11th Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-final on Saturday, beating Dominik Koepfer 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
The four-time champion won 68 per cent of second-serve return points (27/40) and created 21 break points en route to record his 29th victory in 30 matches this year. Djokovic, who has reached the last eight in Rome each year since 2007, improves to 11-3 in Rome quarter-finals. The Serbian has now won seven straight quarter-final matches at the ATP Masters 1000 event, dating back to his loss to Tomas Berdych at this stage in 2013.
Djokovic is now two wins away from lifting a record-breaking 36th Masters 1000 crown. The 33-year-old tied Rafael Nadal’s tally of 35 titles at the level by completing his second Career Golden Masters at the Western & Southern Open last month.
Koepfer was making his main draw debut at a Masters 1000 event this week. The German saved one match point to earn his first ATP Tour victory on clay against Alex de Minaur and clinched his first Top 10 victory against Gael Monfils in the second round. Koepfer is the first qualifier to reach the last eight at this event since Juan Monaco and Mischa Zverev in 2009.
Djokovic will be face Casper Ruud for a spot in the championship match. The Norwegian overcame fourth seed Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in just under three hours to reach his first Masters 1000 semi-final.
Djokovic started quickly on Centrale, attacking Koepfer’s backhand and dictating rallies with his forehand to earn a 4-0 lead. But Koepfer responded emphatically, recovering both breaks as the World No. 1 committed a series of unforced errors. Djokovic improved on his forehand side to earn his third break at 4-3, before closing out the set with a crosscourt forehand winner.
Djokovic opened the second set with another forehand winner, setting the tone as he claimed a love service break. Koepfer soon found a way back into the set, firing a crosscourt backhand passing shot and showcasing incredible court coverage skills to level the score at 3-3. The German forced a decider with his fourth service break at 5-4, playing with depth from the baseline as Djokovic committed three forehand errors.
After failing to convert three consecutive break points in the opening game of the decider, Djokovic was gifted a love service break at 1-1. The 35-time Masters 1000 titlist served with confidence throughout the third set and found rhythm on his forehand towards the end of the match. Djokovic converted his second match point with a well-placed backhand drop volley.