Murray and Djokovic advance to Rome showdown
Issued on: Modified:
Andy Murray administered a tennis lesson to the rising Frenchman Lucas Pouille on Saturday at the Italian Open to set up his 33rd meeting with Novak Djokovic. Pouille, 23, had advanced to his first Masters 1000 semi-final through good fortune and brilliance.
After defeat in the final qualifying round in Rome, Pouille moved into the second round of the main draw via the lucky loser system following the withdrawal of the seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Then Pouille’s talent took over. He dispatched the mercurial Latvian Ernests Gulbis and then swept past the experienced Spaniard David Ferrer in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals.
Good fortune intervened again when his Argentine opponent Juan Monaco withdrew before the match on Friday with a hip injury.
Before the semi-final, second seed Murray said he was leaving nothing to chance and was preparing for a battle after having watched Pouille destroy Ferrer.
In the end, the semi-final was a one-sided 59-minute romp. The 29-year-old Briton advanced to his first Italian Open final with a 6-2 6-1 victory.
After the match Pouille rued his lack of concentration at key moments.
“In the first set I was 2-1 down but leading 40-0 on my service and I got broken. It’s those kind of details which make a big difference. Suddenly the set is gone 6-2,” said the Frenchman.
“I’m certainly not saying I would have won the match had I held my service but I would have got a bit more on the board. Getting that early break in the first set probably enabled Andy to play more freely."
With his run to the last four, Pouille will rise 21 places in the ATP rankings to 31 in the world and he is in line for a seeding at the French Open which starts in Paris on 22 May.
Murray is into his second straight Masters 1000 final on clay. He lost last Sunday at the Madrid Open in three sets to Djkovic.
And following the Serb’s win in three sets on Saturday night against Kei Nishikori, Djokovic will take on Murray for fifth time on clay.
Djokovic will be the more confident warrior. He leads their head-to-head 23-9 and has won their last four meetings since losing to Murray in the Canadian Masters final last August. Djokovic has also won all four of their clashes on clay.