World number one Novak Djokovic defeated Italian Lorenzo Sonego to set up a mouth-watering clash with long term rival, Spanish sensation Rafael Nadal for their sixth Italian Open final. Defending champion Djokovic battled past Sonego in a 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 win. His opponent, nine-time winner Rafael Nadal made easy work of American Reilly Opelka and cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the semi final.
Djokovic earlier survived a three-set battle against Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rain affected quarter-final. Djokovic was trailing 4-6, 1-2 before the game was interrupted due to rain. However, Djokovic bounced back post resumption and clinched the match 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.
This will be Djokovic and Nadal’s 57th clash. They last played in the final of the French Open where Nadal emerged victorious in straight sets. The duo has won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them. In the Italian Open finals, Nadal is in the 3-2 lead over Djokovic.
"Rafa and I had a little laugh today in the locker room after I won against Tsitsipas," Djokovic revealed.
"We kind of joked around about that the 'Old guys are still not giving up'.
"I'm really glad we've shown we're not backing off from the Next Gen attacks."
Nadal saved two match points to beat Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in the third round before getting past Madrid Open slayer Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.
"I saw he said a few days ago that Roger (Federer), him and I are old, but I disagree, I think we're showing some different fresh energy," said the Djokovic.
"It's great to play him again in the final.
"He's the guy that I have encountered the most in my career, definitely my biggest rival of all time."
In the women's final, French Open champion Iga Swiatek will clash with former Rome winner Karolina Pliskova. Pliskova defeated Croatia's Petra Martic 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 to make it to the final of the tournament. She won the title in 2019 and finished runner-up last year.
Swiatek, on the other hand, claimed back to back victories on the day. She first defeated Elina Svitolina, a two-time Rome winner, 6-2, 7-5 in their quarter-final and then pipped American Coco Gauff 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 in the semis.