Second seed Novak Djokovic wasted no time in dismantling 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, 6-1, 6-4 in 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach the semifinals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia for the eighth time. However, the former world number one led by a set and trailed 1-2 down in the final set on Friday, heavy rain with thunder, threatening the Foro Italico. The match was suspended for the night. Nevertheless, Djokovic returned on Saturday and dispatched the Argentine to play his semifinal match with Dominic Thiem later on.
Djokovic crushes del Potro in the opening set
The world number 34 was playing in his second quarterfinal in Rome, the first one since 2009. He broke Djokovic's serve in the opening game of the match, however, that would be the only game he would claim in the first set. The Serb broke back immediately, bossing the baseline rallies, and forcing del Potro to commit unforced errors. Djokovic broke back with a sublime forehand winner in the corner going behind the Argentine to restore parity at 1-1.
Once again, the four-time champion's serve was under scrutiny as the duo continued to exchange in long rallies. The 2009 US Open champion created his break point chance with a sublime forehand winner in the corner. del Potro failed to convert it as he failed to capitalise on Djokovic's second serve with an unforced error. The second seed held serve for the first time in this match, in a game that lasted almost ten minutes with a delightful smash at the net to lead 2-1.
The former world number four sent down big serves followed by big forehands to lead 30-15, however, Djokovic continued to get the Argentine in uncomfortable positions to win the next two points, and created another break point. The Serbian failed to capitalise on it at the first time of asking with a sliced unforced error out wide. Djokovic's excellent returning caused another error from del Potro and brought up a second break point. The former world number one won his third successive game to lead 3-1 with a double fault.
The Serb consolidated the break to lead 4-1 with three aces in this game, and once more, the unseeded Argentine's serve was under pressure. del Potro was trying to stay in touch with Djokovic but raced to a 30-0 lead, however, the Serb's scintillating backhand winner down the line with del Potro stranded at the back of the court along with good returning, got the game levelled at 30-30. Furthermore, the Tower of Tandil committed more unforced errors, and Djokovic broke, despite del Potro's good defence, he found a way to come out on top in a 14 shot rally with a forehand winner down the line.
The four-time champion had some trouble serving for the set as strong forehands from del Potro forced the Serb back behind the baseline, and fell 0-30. Djokovic missed a simple drive volley and trailed at 15-40. Once again, Djokovic found his first serve and terrific backhand winners and a forehand winner, leaving del Potro stranded to snuff out the break points. The Serb pocketed the opening set in 44 minutes, 6-1.
Rain intervenes but Djokovic finds a way to reach the semifinals
The rain came falling down at the conclusion of the opening set. Nonetheless, both players carried on, and del Potro held serve for the first time in the match to lead 1-0. Djokovic responded with a hold to love in his next service game. The rain continued to fall heavily, and after del Potro held comfortably to lead 2-1, the match was halted.
Nevertheless, the reigning French Open champion continued where he left off, serving to love to level the match at 2-2. He came flying out of the blocks, despite del Potro leading 30-0. The Serb continued to boss backhand sliced rallies, which the Argentine struggles in as it's his weaker side. Djokovic created his first break point chance of the second set with a backhand winner down the line. The 30-time Masters 1000 winner converted it with a lovely backhand sliced drop shot winner with del Potro rooted at the back of the court, and lead 3-2.
del Potro was looking to break back immediately with a statement of intent, continuing to strike with his forehand and building a 0-30 lead. Furthermore, Djokovic stayed calm and composed stretching del Potro to level at 30-30. However, del Potro got a chance to break coming out on top in a 19 shot rally, being aggressive. Unfortunately, he was not able to convert it, despite pushing Djokovic around in the rally. The Serb eventually held to extend his lead to 4-2.
The 2009 US Open champion didn't give up and served to love in his next service game. The second seed continued his good play, and with a depth touch, a nice drop shot winner over the net gave him a 5-3 lead. Once again, the Argentine served to love in his next service game. The former world number one had no issues in his final service game to close the match out, playing a sliced backhand which saw del Potro commit an error, to win the match, 6-1, 6-4, to reach his eighth semifinal at the Foro Italico.
The four-time champion produced eight backhand winners and 12 forehand winners in this match. Whilst, del Potro had no backhand winners but produced nine forehand winners. Both players were identical with nine backhand unforced errors each and 11 forehand unforced errors. Both players sent down four aces each in that department and Djokovic converted four of the five break point chances that he produced, whilst del Potro converted one out of five.