Top-seeded Novak Djokovic is on the doorstep of his 1,000th career ATP victory after ousting Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 7-6 (1) in Friday’s quarterfinals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
Djokovic also moved into the No. 1 spot in the world rankings with the victory, supplanting Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.
Djokovic converted 73.7 percent of his first-serve points while sliding past Auger-Aliassime, the eighth-seeded Canadian who recorded 11 aces.
The Serbian was one game away from closing out the match before Auger-Aliassime won four of the next five games to force a tiebreak. Djokovic dominated the tiebreak for win No. 999 of his career.
“I thought it was high-level tennis,” Djokovic said afterward. “He did ask me to raise the level and I had to play consistently well. I thought I could have finished the job earlier … but credit to him for fighting back. Amazing atmosphere as well tonight.”
Only four men’s players have reached 1,000 wins: Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,251), Ivan Lendl (1,068) and Rafael Nadal (1,051).
Djokovic will attempt to join the club in the semifinals against fifth-seeded Norwegian Casper Ruud, who posted a 7-6 (7), 7-5 win over Canadian 13th seed Denis Shapovalov.
“Great quality opponent again,” Djokovic said of Ruud. “Clay-court specialist, but he has improved a lot in other surfaces, played the final of Miami this year. Just a very hard worker, nice guy.
“We practice a lot and get along well off the court. Tomorrow, obviously on the court we want to win against each other, no doubt. … Hopefully I can play as well as I did tonight.”
Second-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany and fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece will meet in the other semifinal.
Zverev dispatched Chile’s Cristian Garin 7-5, 6-2, while Tsitsipas eliminated 10th-seeded Italian Jannik Sinner 7-6 (5), 6-2.
Zverev had four aces among 24 winners in his win over Garin.
“It was a high-level match. At times it wasn’t pretty tennis, but I got the job done and that is the most important thing,” Zverev said afterward. “I am through to the semifinals and I am happy about that.”
Tsitsipas racked up 10 aces while controlling his match and disappointing the Sinner-rooting fans in Rome.
“I am happy things turned out well. It was a great day at the office,” Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. “I was able to really step it up in the second set and I think the most important part was that first set tie-break. I really went for it when I had to. I didn’t overthink or hesitate and that paid off in the end.”
Ruud seized control of his match with Shapovalov by converting 77.6 percent of his first-serve points.
“I think one of the most important things on clay is to put a lot of first serves in. Today was working well,” Ruud said afterward. “I was serving well all match. At the beginning you are sometimes a bit nervous and excited to start, but after that I was able to calm down and find my tempo.”
–Field Level Media