Djokovic beats Nishikori in Rome classic


Novak Djokovic will face Andy Murray in the second final between the two in the space of a week after fighting back to beating Kei Nishikori in an epic Internazionali d'Italia semi-final on Saturday.

The world number one saw off Murray to win the Madrid Open last Sunday and will get the chance to spoil the Brit's 29th birthday when they meet in Rome seven days on following a 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5) victory over Nishikori in just over three hours.

Two-time defending champion Djokovic needed treatment on an ankle injury after the first game of the match and suffered more pain when Nishikori bossed the first set at the Foro Italico.

The 11-time grand-slam champion responded like he has done on so many occasions over the years, sealing an eighth consecutive victory over the world number six to move one win away from claiming his sixth title of the year.

Nishikori was also beaten by Djokovic, a four-time winner in the Eternal City, at the semi-final stage in Madrid and another defeat was tough on the sixth seed from Japan during a classic in Rome.

A sprightly Nishikori saved the a break point in his opening service game and drew blood first by following up a rasping backhand with a brilliantly executed drop shot to go a break up at 2-1.

The 2014 US Open runner-up was at the top of his game, equal to everything Djokovic threw at him as he saved another break point before breaking again to leave Djokovic shell-shocked.

Nishikori grasped his opportunity to serve for the set in assured fashion and showed great character once again to save a further four break points in the second game of set two to thwart the top seed.

Djokovic apologised to a ball boy after being warned by the umpire for thrashing a ball close to him in frustration, and looked fired up and finally broke to level the match when Nishikori netted.

Nishikori looked beaten when Djokovic led 4-1 in the decider, but he refused to accept defeat and won four games in a row before saving a match point at 5-5 in a classic, so a tie-break was needed to settle an enthralling match.

Djokovic was on the back foot at 3-1 down in the tie-break, but came through again by claiming three mini-breaks to two and set up yet another showdown with Murray.