Rome, May 14: Felix Auger-Aliassime proved no match for Novak Djokovic, who looks well set to claim his first title of 2022.
It has been a frustrating season to date for the Serbian, who reached a final in Belgrade last month before being beaten by rising star Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid earlier in May.
Yet with Rafael Nadal out of the picture, Djokovic is the clear favourite heading into the Internazionali d'Italia semi-finals, after he beat Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 7-6 (7-1) on Friday.
The win not only tees up a semi-final against Casper Ruud, who saw off Nadal's conqueror Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (9-7) 7-5, but also ensures Djokovic will spend a 370th week at the top of the ATP rankings, after he slipped below Daniil Medvedev in the live standings.
Djokovic will add 360 points to his total for reaching the last four, and he now has a milestone 1,000th Tour-level win in his sights when he takes on Ruud for a place in the final. The 34-year-old has won a record 37 Masters 1000 titles so far in his career, including five in Rome.
"I thought it was high-level tennis," Djokovic said. "[Auger-Aliassime] did ask me to raise the level and I had to play consistently well.
"I thought I could have finished the job earlier, but credit to him for fighting back.
"I know Felix well. He's been around the top of the men's game for quite a few years. He's got a lethal serve, honestly. He's hitting his spots in the box incredibly well with the serve, and it was not easy for me at all to return.
"He's also returning well, he's moving well. He's a very complete player."
The other semi-final will see second seed Alexander Zverev, who beat Cristian Garin 7-5 6-2, take on Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Greek Tsitsipas overcame Jannik Sinner 7-6 (7-5) 6-2, becoming the first player to reach 30 wins on the ATP Tour in 2022.
"We have similar game styles but he is one of the most difficult players to play against on the Tour," Tsitsipas said, previewing his clash with Zverev.
"I have a lot of respect for him. He has achieved a lot so far and I try and look up to him with the things he has achieved."