Novak Djokovic continued his dominance against Rafael Nadal on Friday, defeating his rival in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open. The world’s No.1 ranked player won 7-5 7-6 (4) to advance to the semifinals in Rome, where he’ll face either Kei Nishikori or Dominic Thiem.
It was a valiant effort by Nadal, who earned a break to lead 3-2 in the first set, but Djokovic broke back to even the match in the eighth game before pulling away with exceptional defense against some of Nadal's crafty volleys and drop shots. After a 72-minute first set, a spectacular final point prompted jubilation from the Serb.
Nadal kept the pressure on Djokovic in the second set, before falling in a one-sided tie-breaker in a match that lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours. Djokovic earned the victory with a service break on match point.
Djokovic’s victory gives him seven straight wins over Nadal, including a three-match winning streak on clay. It’s the third time Djokovic has defeated Nadal in 2016, last beating the Spaniard at Indian Wells in straight sets.
Djokovic now has a 26-23 career edge over Nadal. Nadal, ranked No.5 in the world, hasn’t gotten past Djokovic since the finals of the 2014 French Open.
The win puts Djokovic one step closer to winning his sixth tournament of the year. He topped Nadal in the finals in his first victory of 2016 in Qatar. Djokovic won the title in Rome in both 2014 and 2015.
Nadal once dominated the Italian Open, winning the championship in all but two years from 2005-2013. Nadal was bounced in the semifinals of the Madrid Open last week, but he had won two consecutive tournaments.
If Djokovic reaches the Italian Open finals, he will likely meet Andy Murray, whom he beat in the finals at Madrid a week ago. Should Djokovic capture the title, he would become the first player to earn over $100 million in prize money.