HomeNewsItalian Open 2023 results: Novak Djokovic beats Cameron Norrie to reach quarter-finals

Italian Open 2023 results: Novak Djokovic beats Cameron Norrie to reach quarter-finals

Novak Djokovic goes for a forehand
Novak Djokovic is chasing a seventh Italian Open title

Defending champion Novak Djokovic reached his 17th successive Italian Open quarter-final with a tense victory over British number one Cameron Norrie.

The 35-year-old Serb, who will be replaced as world number one by Carlos Alcaraz next week, won 6-3 6-4 in Rome.

The mood in a tetchy encounter worsened in the second set when Norrie smashed an overhead into the ankle of Djokovic, who had already given up the point.

Djokovic faces seventh seed Holger Rune or qualifier Alexei Popyrin next.

The Serb’s preparation for the French Open has been disrupted by injury but he is finding form in time for his bid for a 23rd Grand Slam singles title when it starts on 28 May.

Having delayed the start of the match for a few minutes while he was in the treatment room, Djokovic then wasted no time in racing into a 3-0 lead – and was not even held up by an early collision with the clock at the side of the court.

While Norrie slowed down Djokovic’s charge with a couple of holds and saved three set points – one with a rocketing backhand service return – he could do nothing about the fourth as Djokovic wrapped up the first set.

The 27-year-old Briton went a break down early in the second and then immediately broke back – but in controversial fashion.

Djokovic had already surrendered the point when he hit high to leave Norrie with an open court to put the ball into and was walking away with his back turned when Norrie fired his smash into Djokovic’s left ankle.

Norrie uttered a brief “sorry” and raised his hand in apology, earning whistles from the crowd and a huge glare from a clearly riled Djokovic.

With conditions cool and the mood on court even frostier, Djokovic went on to break to love for 5-4.

Having been made to wait at the start of the match, it was then Norrie’s turn to keep Djokovic waiting as he received treatment on court on his hip while the Serb prepared to serve for the match.

Djokovic went 0-30 down but resumed his focus as he sealed victory on his second match point to stay on course for a seventh Italian Open title, with the pair exchanging a tense handshake and no words at the net.

Djokovic finding form in time for French Open

Djokovic missed the recent Madrid Open with an elbow injury and before that had made earlier-than-expected exits from tournaments in Monte Carlo and Bosnia and Herzegovina to leave his clay-court preparations in less than ideal shape in the run-up to the French Open.

He and Rafael Nadal both have a chance to win a record 23rd men’s major singles title at Roland Garros, but with the Spaniard having been unable to play since the Australian Open in January because of a hip injury neither is a red-hot favourite to win in Paris.

Spain’s US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz, who will take over as world number one from Djokovic when the rankings are updated next week, has been looking good for a French Open challenge after back-to-back titles in Madrid and Barcelona.

However, the 20-year-old suffered a shock last-32 defeat in Rome on Monday by Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan to make his earliest exit in a tournament since October.

Even if Djokovic wins the title in Italy, he will still lose the number one ranking, but he would head to Paris with his clay season back on track.

Against Norrie he was more assured than in the previous two rounds, albeit he was helped by the Briton’s unforced error count which reached 29.

“So far, so good,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview.

“I’m just glad to overcome today’s challenge in straight sets and move on.”

He did not give details about what the issue was that he had received treatment for before the match but suggested there was no cause for concern.

“Every day there’s something,” he added. “Thankfully I was able to play and finish the match and hopefully tomorrow I will feel even better.”

Norrie will continue his French Open preparations next week at a tournament in Lyon, where he is the top seed.

Novak Djokovic crashes into the clock at the side of the court
Novak Djokovic had a early collision with the clock at the side of the court

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