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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, May 16, 2023


Defending champion Novak Djokovic won 11 of 12 net points conquering Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-4 to advance to his 17th Rome quarterfinal.

Photo credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty

Racing right to run down a forehand, Novak Djokovic crashed into the scoreboard losing his Head racquet in the process.

Showing strong commitment to the cause, Djokovic was a major number cruncher today.

More: Marozsan Shocks Alcaraz

Defending champion Djokovic dismissed Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-4 rolling the Rome quarterfinals for the 17th consecutive year.

"So far, so good," said Djokovic after improving to 20-3 in 2023. "It was an early start today. Strange conditions. We warmed up just like 20 minutes. I actually finished my warm up like 10 minutes before I went on the court.

"So I was rushing a bit with everything, but we couldn't play earlier because of the rain. I'm just glad to overcome today's challenge in straight sets and move on."

Dictating play with his forehand and deploying the drop shot-lob combination to damaging effect, Djokovic won 11 of 12 trips to net defeating Norrie for the third time in as many meetings.

There was emotional edginess, too. Norrie nailed Djokovic with a smash to the ankle after the Serbian had turned his back scoring a second-set break and fueling the 22-time Grand Slam champion's competitive fire. Norrie immediately raised a hand in apology, but it only fired Djokovic up even more as he stared the Briton down at one point.

Afterward, Djokovic said he was ticked off by a combination of the Briton's brash antics. While Norrie was within the rules, Djokovic said "it's not fair play" and made it clear he didn't appreciate the Brit's aggression.

"It was not so much maybe about that, but it was maybe a combination of things. From the very beginning, I don't know, he was doing all the things that were allowed," Djokovic said of Norrie. "He's allowed to take a medical timeout. He's allowed to hit a player. He's allowed to say C'mon in the face more or less every single point from basically first game.

"Those are the things that we players know in the locker room it's not fair play, it's not how we treat each other."

Ultimately, Djokovic said the disrespect and mind games inspired fierce response.

"He brought the fire, and I responded to that," Djokovic said. "I'm not going to allow someone behaving like this just bending my head. I'm going to respond to that.

"That's all it is. What happens on the court, we leave it on the court, and we move on."

Continuing his quest for a seventh Rome championship, Djokovic raised his Rome record to 67-10.

Tennis Express

The world No. 1 will face world No. 7 Holger Rune for a semifinal spot.

Rune fended off Aussie qualifier Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

Last fall, Rune upset Djokovic in the Rolex Paris Masters final to capture his maiden Masters 1000 championship. The pair have played twice with Djokovic prevailing in four sets at the 2021 US Open before Rune responded with a gritty 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 triumph in Paris Masters final staving off six break points in the final dizzying game. 

"He's in very good form and I look forward to a challenge," Djokovic said of Rune. "I think it's going to be a very physical match."

A day after second-ranked Carlos Alcaraz fell to 135th-ranked Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan in straight sets, Djokovic drained drama from this rematch of the 2022 Wimbledon semifinals from the start.

Cracking his forehand into both corners, Djokovic broke in Norrie's opening service game for a 2-0 lead.

The reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion won eight of his first 10 points on serve stretching his lead to 3-0.

Rio champion Norrie, who took the court with a 4-1 record vs. Top 10 opponents this season, saved two set points rallying from 15-40 down to hold for 3-5.

That was a brief reprieve as Djokovic converted his fourth set point for a one-set lead.

The depth of Djokovic's forehand gave the left-handed Briton little space or opportunity to step in and create consistent offense. The pair exchange breaks in the third and fourth games of the second set.

Playing pivotal points off his front foot an unrelenting Djokovic unleashed baseline oppression as the set progressed. Undone by a double fault and Djokovic's depth, Norrie surrendered serve at love as the top seed broke at love for 5-4.

Streaking through eight straight points, Djokovic closed his cleanest performance of the week in 90 minutes.

Perhaps annoyed by Norrie hitting him with an overhead or the fact the Briton took an injury timeout right before Djokovic served out the match, the six-time champion offered a chilly handshake at net.

Djokovic cruised into his 91st Masters 1000 quarterfinal, second all-time only to rival Rafael Nadal who has made 99 Masters quarterfinals. 


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