Djokovic struggled against the Italian, with his backhand not dominating his opponent nor his usual aggressive returns, but his resilience and experience proved the difference as he progressed after more than four hours on court.
“It was one of those days where nothing is working,” said Djokovic after the five-set thriller.
“I wasn’t managing to get into the rhythm. I had flashes, positive flashes where I was winning games in a row, and I felt that I actually can hit it. But most of the match I was defensive.”
Incredibly, Djokovic produced 77 unforced errors in the win and admitted it wasn’t a good day for him.
“Today was not a good day, definitely. But I’m going through, so I hope I can deliver my best in the next one,” he said.
Djokovic is likely to face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals, while Roger Federer will face either Juan Martin del Porto or Tomas Berdych in the last eight after he got past Belgian youngster David Goffin.
Elsewhere in the fourth round, Rafa Nadal takes on Juan Monaco, Janko Tipsarevic and Nicolas Almagro meet, Andy Murray faces Richard Gasquet and it’s a battle of the Spaniards between David Ferrer and Marcel Granollers.