Djokovic, Halep book semis berths

AGENCIES
ROME, 19th Sep: Top men's seed Novak Djokovic dropped a set before fighting off German qualifier Dominik Koepfer to reach the semi-finals of the Italian Open on Saturday.
The world number one needed more than two hours to see off the 97th-ranked German 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the final warm-up tournament on clay before the French Open.
Two weeks after his US Open default for accidentally hitting a line judge with the ball, the Serb again showed signs of frustration, throwing his racket after a lost service game, with shouts of anger resounding in the silence of the empty Central Court of Foro Italico.
Djokovic was broken four times in a match which took more than two hours before advancing to his 15th consecutive semi-final in Rome, where he has won four times.
The 33-year-old next plays Norway's Casper Ruud who earlier battled past Italian fourth seed Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).
Earlier, top-seeded Simona Halep became the first semifinalist at the Italian Open when Kazakh opponent Yulia Putintseva retired midway through their match due to a lower back injury.
Halep was ahead 6-2, 2-0 when Putintseva decided she was in too much pain to continue -- having already taken an off-court medical timeout between sets.
The 30th-ranked Putintseva was coming off two long three-set matches, having upset eighth-seeded Petra Martic and 10th-seeded Elena Rybakina. Entering the match, she had been on court for 7 hours, 22 minutes -- far more than Halep, who had a bye in the opening round and won her next two matches in straight sets.
Putintseva also reached the US Open quarterfinals in her previous tournament, while Halep decided to skip the event in New York due to coronavirus travel concerns.
Halep improved to 8-0 since the tennis restart and 12-0 overall stretching back to February.
Halep, who lost two straight finals in Rome to Elina Svitolina in 2017 and 2018, will need to beat two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza or US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka to return to the final.


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