Novak Djokovic very seriously raised his voice. After an absolutely magnificent match, the Serb validated his ticket for the last square of the Masters 1000 in Rome after a successful victory against Félix Auger-Aliassime in the quarterfinals, on Friday night, in a crowded Foro Italico.
Winner in two rounds of the Canadian (7-5, 7-6), after 2:09 of the match, “Nole” has already secured its place as world No. 1 for the next Roland-Garros. Outgoing finalist in Rome, his ocher garden, the place where he measures himself in front of the Porte d’Auteuil, the naked Serb will indeed lose at least 240 points with this accession to the semi-finals.
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This is the 999th time he has won a game on the ATP circuit. He will be able to win the 1000th against Casper Ruud on Saturday, before hoping to win his first title of the 2022 season in the final. We are not there yet, but the level displayed when this highly contested quarter was a message addressed to the competition, to the old, as well as to the youngest on the circuit. Yes, Djokovic is regaining his level from a few months ago and it’s moving.
A mind-boggling end to the game
To beat that Auger-Aliassime, you had to be better than him, as the Canadian evolved to a very high level in this match. Problem, Djokovic was better and his success was the consequence of logic, even though closing was difficult for him.
As he led 7-5, 5-2, and had a game ball on the service of his rival, the world No. 1 had a pretty spectacular gap. At 5-3, A 30/15, he missed a full-fledged volley and let the FAA come back from the dead. Unbuttoned, Nole cashed in on the punches of his rival, who did not shy away from doing the show and playing with an acquired crowd for his cause. It’s rare enough for him to point it out.
Glad to see the debates go on, the Roman public began to believe in a spectacular rise of Frédéric Fontang’s protégé. After three games of being groggy, Djokovic put the car back on track 5-5 with a mastered white game, as if nothing had happened before. The famous “reset” button.
At 6-5 Djokovic, the game turned into something unreal. On the FAA service game, the two men began to exchange endless exchanges in each other’s faces, each waiting for the other’s fault. It was boxing but on a chessboard.
Djokovic assassinated in the tie-break
Finally coming out alive from the little whirlwind of pressure imprinted by Djoko on his commitment, Auger-Aliassime finally … took a tidal wave in the decisive game. Djokovic pulled out his set of surveyors, and sent bullets at unlikely angles. Set like a clock, with the arm released and a first ball present, it was terribly cold to finish the points. Beautiful and disputed points. Get to the tie-break match.
A game that the Serb always had under his control despite a few jerks and this rebellion from the opposite camp. The two sets are to be put in parallel at the level of the script: Djokovic dominated the first act, made the break, then conceded the debreak, before putting the machine back on “on”. It was clinical. A Djokovic a little “old school”, yes. For his first duel on the circuit with the man in the 20 Grand Slams, Félix Auger-Alissiame will remember this lesson in realism.
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