ROME: Stefanos Tsitsipas moved into the Italian Open final on Saturday after beating Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in an entertaining last four battle in Rome.
Monte Carlo Masters champion Tsitsipas impressed on a boiling hot centre court at the Foro Italico, continuing his dominance of two-time ATP Finals winner Zverev to reach his first ever final in the Italian capital.
Saturday’s clash was the third semi-final between the pair in the space of a month after they shared the honours in Monte Carlo and Madrid.
Tsitsipas came into the match having won seven of the pair’s 11 matches and a 3-1 record on clay against Zverev, and he fought back from a set down to book his place in the final and a probable showdown with Novak Djokovic.
The match turned at the start of the second set, when Tsitsipas won the first three games — saving two break points in the third — which ensured he drew level.
From there Zverev crumbled and the way he eventually lost the encounter, throwing away his own serve to love with two unforced errors, highlighted how Tsitsipas had ground him down.
Top seed Djokovic is chasing a sixth title in Rome ahead of Roland Garros later this month and faces Casper Ruud later Saturday.
He secured a record-extending 370th week as world number one with his straight sets victory over by Felix Auger-Aliassime on Friday night.
Should Djokovic get through it would be a rematch of his and Tsitsipas’s final at last year’s French Open, a five-set thriller eventually won by the Serb.
Iga Swiatek cruised into the women’s final by crushing Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets 6-2, 6-1 to put her one game from a fifth straight tournament win.
World number one Swiatek swatted Sabalenka aside in one hour, 16 minutes in Rome to claim her 27th win on the bounce, a tally last reached by Serena Williams in 2015.
“I’m just constantly surprising myself that I can do better and better,” Swiatek told reporters.
“I feel like I actually can believe now that the sky’s the limit. That’s the fun part.”
Pole Swiatek is the reigning champion in Rome and favourite for the French Open later this month, a fact underlined by the way she dealt with her opponent.
World number eight Sabalenka is a two-time doubles Grand Slam winner and has 10 career singles titles to her name but the gulf on display at the Foro Italico was larger than the ranking suggested.
The Belarussian, who had to take a time out for a back massage while 4-1 down in the second set, won just two of her service games and could not keep up with Swiatek’s bustling style.
Swiatek now awaits the winner of the other semi-final between Ons Jabeur and unseeded Daria Kasatkina.
Ninth seed Jabeur made history last weekend by winning in Madrid to become the first Arab or African player to claim a WTA 1000 title.
The Tunisian is in the last four after an incredible fightback in her quarter-final win over Maria Sakkari on Friday.
One set down and 5-2 behind in the second, Jabeur strung eight games in a row to go ahead in the match, a lead she never relinquished.
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