Djokovic to face Nadal final
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will renew hostilities in Sunday's final of the Rome Masters after they both came through their semi-finals on Saturday.
They had differing fortunes in getting through the last four though, with Djokovic pushed all the way by Milos Raonic, while Nadal was comfortable throughout his 6-2 6-2 win over Grigor Dimitrov.
Djokovic reached the Rome Masters final for the fifth time in his career after coming through a tough semi-final with Milos Raonic 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-3.
Djokovic, who has won the tournament twice, in 2008 and 2011, needed exactly three hours to rack up his second win against Montenegrin-born Raonic in as many encounters.
In a highly tactical clash, big-serving Raonic clubbed 16 aces with some flying past the second seed at more than 140 mph.
"I can't recall the last time when I was feeling so helpless in the return games," Djokovic said. "It was brutal."
The 26-year-old looked to have the first set sewn up when he won the first three points in the day's first tiebreak, only for Raonic to fire back with an incredible six-point streak on his way to sealing an opening set in which he flung down eight aces.
Djokovic, who ousted David Ferrer in the quarter-finals, was in the box seat in the second set when he finally broke Raonic's serve in the fourth game after an hour and 42 minutes, only for the Canadian to break right back in a game that contained an improbable backhand drop shot.
The set drifted to another tiebreak, and despite Raonic fighting back from 2-0 down Djokovic held his nerve to take it 7-4 and set up a decider.
Canadian Raonic dropped serve immediately in the third and that spelled the end of his challenge as Djokovic moved through to the final where he will be hoping to land a third Rome title and a 19th Masters 1000 crown.
Djokovic now goes up against seven-time Rome champion Nadal in Sunday's final in what promises to be another cracker between the two.