Tennis: Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic in 51st meeting to reach Rome Masters final

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his semi-finals match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open on May 19, 2018.
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his semi-finals match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open on May 19, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME (AFP) - Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 on Saturday (May 19) to reach the Rome Masters final.

Nadal, who is now 10-0 in semi-finals at the Foro Italico, broke loose after a tight first set lasting well over an hour to edge out the Serb in their 51st career meeting in a rivalry stretching back to 2006.

The Spaniard Nadal said: "It was a tough match, of course, playing against him is always a big challenge. He played well, and it's always the same against him; when you go down a little bit in level, he is always there and you are in big trouble.

"I needed to play aggressive with my forehand, that's when I felt I was a little more in control."

In Sunday's final, Nadal will face either defending champion Alexander Zverev or Marin Cilic.

Nadal, who is gunning for his 11th French Open crown in June, added: "I need to be ready to play my best tomorrow. This victory today is a big confidence for me. This tournament has been very positive for me after last week in Madrid.

"To come back to a final, I'm very happy."