Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning a point to Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas during their quarter-final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
- Unseeded Lorenzo Sonego, having the tournament of his life in Rome, faces Novak Djokovic in the semifinals
- The 26-year-old Italian has upset three seeds on his way to the final four
- Djokovic is a huge favorite; we break down where the value might be for the underdog
Lorenzo Sonego’s rise has been overshadowed by the hype around much-younger countrymen Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti.
But at 26, his time has come.
Novak Djokovic vs Lorenzo Sonego Odds
|Player||Spread||Moneyline||Total at DraftKings|
| Novak Djokovic||-5.5 (+108)||-835||O 19.5 (-132)|
|Lorenzo Sonego (ITA)||+5.5 (-137)||+575||U 19.5 (+104)|
Odds as of May 15th.
Sonego, the Seed Killer
If Djokovic might reasonably have expected to face No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem or No. 7 Andrey Rublev in Saturday’s Italian Open semifinals, he finds himself against the unexpected.
The unseeded Sonego, after taking care of rusty No. 14 seed Gaël Monfils in his opening match, took care of both of them.
On Saturday, after some late-night heroics against Thiem in Thursday’s quarterfinals – which included a 20-minute break as they had to clear out the crowd with the Rome curfew approaching – the 26-year-old took care of Rublev 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
🇮🇹 Lorenzo Sonego’s stunning route to the Rome semi-finals…
R1: d. Monfils 6-4 5-7 6-4
R2: d. Mager 6-4 6-4
R3: d. Thiem 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(5)
QF: d. Rublev 3-6 6-4 6-3
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 15, 2021
It was a match that took two hours and 33 minutes, and extracted as much emotional as physical energy from the first-time Masters 1000 semifinalist.
To have to take on the world No. 1 on the very same day is a huge challenge.
Novak Djokovic vs Lorenzo Sonego Head-to-Head
|33 (May 22, 1987)||Age||26 (May 11, 1995)|
|Belgrade, Serbia||Birthplace||Turin, Italy|
|82||Career ATP Singles Titles||2|
|No. 1 (July 4, 2011)||Career High Ranking||No. 28 (April 12, 2021)|
|No. 1||Current Ranking||No. 33|
|$147,820,035||Career Prize Money||$2,265,598|
|15-2||2021 Won/Loss record||15-8|
Italian Crowd a Role Player on Super Saturday
If Djokovic was desultory during part one of his eventual win over Stefanos Tsitsipas Friday, it was partly due to the fact that the conditions were wet, miserable and soggy.
He was having more trouble hitting through the wet court than the more powerful Tsitsipas. And the stops and starts clearly annoyed him far more than his 22-year-old Greek opponent.
In the end, the match was called off Friday night. And when he returned on a dry, sunny Saturday, and with as big a crowd as the Italian COVID-19 protocols permit, he was a different player.
THIS is what we’ve been missing 🤯
The Italians fans go wild as Sonego makes the Rome semi-finals! pic.twitter.com/p06T7YIiDX
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 15, 2021
He fought off Tsitsipas when he served for the match in the third set. And he broke him to win it.
Djokovic is a hugely popular player at the Italian Open, in part because he speaks the language. He has won it five times.
But against the Italian Sonego, the crowd should be squarely and vocally for his opponent. That is always an … interesting dynamic for the Serb.
Novak Djokovic vs Lorenzo Sonego Match History
|2020||Vienna (QF)||Indoor Hard||6-2, 6-1||Sonego|
Sonego Leads Head-to-Head 1-0
At the time, you couldn’t imagine the next time Djokovic and Sonego would meet would be the semifinals of Rome.
But while Sonego has that win over the world No. 1 in his pocket forever – and played some nifty clay-court style drop shots on an indoor hard court to do it – it comes with a few asterisks.
Djokovic took a wild card into the tournament, played a couple of weeks after the fall edition of the French Open, with one purpose in mind, securing the No. 1.
With his victory over Borna Coric in the previous round, that was mission accomplished. Djokovic was ripe for the picking for the biggest win of Sonego’s career thus far.
The circumstances Saturday are completely different. Having resurrected himself Saturday to get past Tsitsipas – afterwards, he called it “his toughest match of the year” – he won’t want to waste that effort and go down to a pretender. Even a pretender on a major roll.
Djokovic a Huge Favorite, but Opportunities Exist
The Serb’s experience will make it easier for him to handle the turnaround, the occasion, and the crowd.
Djokovic turns 34 in a week. But his fitness won’t be in question. And he played less tennis than his opponent in his first match Saturday.
The odds are more attractive for a straight-sets win, by a lot. And the under of 19.5 (at +104), or something like a 6-4, 6-3 Djokovic victory, look pretty good as well.
Best Bet: Djokovic in two sets (-230)
Stephanie gets the straight dope from the tennis insiders. On court, she has represented her country internationally. A BA in journalism led to years on the MLB beat and a decade covering tennis globally. She’s written for Postmedia, the Guardian, the New York Times and also publishes OpenCourt.ca.