Novak Djokovic recovered from a slow start to beat Casper Ruud in the Italian Open semi-finals and move within touching distance of another record.

The Serbian has claimed 35 ATP Masters 1000 titles and will go one ahead of Rafael Nadal if he triumphs in Monday’s finale in Rome.

It was not completely straightforward for the world number one on his way to a 7-5 6-3 win over his Norwegian opponent, but he progressed despite a scare to take another step in the right direction after a shock early exit at the US Open earlier this month.

Djokovic told “It is super important (to win the title). Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t take anything for granted, even after 15 years on the tour, I still enjoy it.

“I still have a hunger for the titles and putting myself in a position to fight for the title is exactly where I want to be.”

Ruud took the last-four clash to Djokovic from the off and broke the 17-time grand slam champion in his first game.

After holding serve to move 5-4 ahead, the 21-year-old failed to make the most of two set points and paid the price.

Action from Novak Djokovic's semi-final against Casper Ruud at the Italian Open
Action from Novak Djokovic’s semi-final against Casper Ruud at the Italian Open (Alfredo Falcone/AP)

Djokovic won four games in a row to go one up and broke his young opponent in the sixth game of the second set before he closed out the victory to take his record in 2020 to 30 wins out of 31.

Success in Monday’s final would mean the Serbian has displaced Nadal as the player with the most ATP Masters 1000 titles after he moved level with the Spaniard when he triumphed at the Western & Southern Open.

This is Djokovic’s first tournament since he was defaulted at the US Open for striking a line judge with a ball during his fourth-round match with Pablo Carreno Busta.

Nadal’s conquerer Diego Schwartzman will face the Serb in the final after he came through a marathon contest with Denis Shapovalov.

The Argentinian showed his last-eight success was not a flash in the pain after he secured a 6-4 5-7 7-6 (4) triumph in front of 1,000 spectators in Rome.

A small crowd were treated to a classic on the clay, with Schwartzman not able to close out the game after he sealed the first set.

Diego Schwartzman won a marathon contest against Denis Shapovalov to reach the Italian Open final
Diego Schwartzman won a marathon contest against Denis Shapovalov to reach the Italian Open final

Shapovalov fought back and knew victory would earn him a place in the top 10 of the ATP rankings, making him the second Canadian to achieve the feat.

He had the chance to serve for the match at 5-4 up but Schwartzman showed supreme spirit to break back and hold his nerve in the tie-break.

After three hours and 15 minutes, the one-time French Open quarter-finalist will take part in his first ATP Masters 1000 final on Monday.