Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep on Sunday advanced to the finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia as fans returned to the stands at the Foro Italico for the first time.
World No. 1 Djokovic beat Norway’s Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3 and was to play Argentine Diego Schwartzman for his fifth Rome title.
Top women’s seed Simona Halep reached a third final where she was to face defending champion Karolina Pliskova for a trophy the Romanian narrowly missed out on in 2017 and 2018.
Djokovic had been on a collision course for another showdown with Nadal a week before the French Open at Roland Garros, but Schwartzman eliminated the nine-time Rome winner in the quarter-finals and booked his ticket to the final with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7/4) win over Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
“Of course, you know, with Nadal in the finals and without Nadal in the finals makes a big difference,” said Djokovic, who has played five of his nine Rome finals against Nadal. “So it’s going to be strange not facing him, but at the same time, I won’t underestimate anybody that steps on the court against me tomorrow.”
The Serb could win a record 36th Masters title. He is tied on 35 with Nadal.
Of his four titles in Rome his last was in 2015, with three lost finals in 2016, 2017 and last year.
World No. 2 Halep ousted Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to meet second seed Pliskova, who eased past fellow Czech Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 6-4.
“Thank God I don’t play [Elina] Svitolina, because I lost two times against her,” Halep said of the Ukrainian she twice fell to in the final.
Halep extended her winning streak this season to 13 matches, with her last defeat coming against Muguruza in the Australian Open.
The Italian government from Sunday allowed up to 1,000 spectators at open-air sports events for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown.
“That definitely was nice to have some people out there,” Pliskova said. “It felt super empty, like super lonely.”
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