ROME (APP) – World number one Novak Djokovic overcame a self-inflicted ankle injury to battle into the Rome Masters final after a thrilling 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) win over Kei Nishikori on Saturday.
The victory means Djokovic will now meet Britain’s Andy Murray, the second seed, in a second successive Masters final on Sunday, only a week after beating the Scot in Madrid.
Djokovic, the top seed and defending champion, laid the foundations for a fifth title in Rome with a hard-fought win over seven-time champion Rafael Nadal on Friday.
But the Serb almost scuppered his hopes after inadvertently bruising his left ankle with his racket while dusting red clay from the playing surface off his shoes.
The injury left Djokovic requiring medical treatment, and appeared to rob him of the early momentum against the Japanese sixth seed.
“It hurt for a while, and though the pain faded it returned towards the end of the match.”
Nishikori, who suffered a semi-final defeat against the Serb in Madrid, gave tennis’s man of the moment a tough context.
His agility and movement were crucial in a 43-minute winning first set that was peppered with numerous scoring drop shots.
Djokovic upped the momentum at a key moment in the second set, forcing a decider with a break on his first set point in the 10th game. Djokovic maintained the momentum in the third set, but again Nishikori came out swinging.
The Serbian broke his opponent’s serve in the second game, only for Nishikori to level at 4-4. He saved a match point at 5-4 before going on to force the tiebreak. Although he saved a further two match points, Nishikori was unable to save a fourth as Djokovic sealed the win in just over three hours.