World number one Novak Djokovic ousts Swiss Stan Wawrinka at the Foro Italico on Thursday to reach his 16th quarterfinal in sixteen career appearances on Roman soil.
The Serbian, who by now has won both matches he contested at the Italian Open, losing only nine games in the process, also achieved his No. 998 career victory in the ATP Masters 1000 tournament on Thursday.
In his on-court interview, the World No. 1 said: “It is great to see Stan back and winning. He won two tough matches. You can see he is still not physically where he wants to be. But nevertheless, he is Stan Wawrinka, and he can hurt you if you give him time.
“I managed to do well from the beginning. I really moved him around the court and held my serve comfortably except for that loss of my serve in the second set.”
The three-time grand slam champion is returning from a major injury as he underwent two surgeries last year.
During his 2022 campaign in Rome, he captured his first tour-level victory in 17 months against 14th seed Reilly Opelka on Monday.
Moreover, he recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since January 2021, following his triumph over Serbian Laslo Djere, a big step towards getting back to form.
Ahead of his matchup with Djokovic, Wawrinka made clear he is not yet back at his top level. And in that regard, gathering court time is precious for his recovery process, seeking to reach Roland-Garros in better shape, physically and mentally, with his game.
For his part, Djokovic is on his way to getting back in form after a controversial start of the season due to his vaccination status, lacking matches, and accuracy in his game.
Overall, the five-time champion in Rome is yet to lift a trophy this season, though, within each match he plays, he only gets better and closer to arriving at the French Open 100 percent to defend his Roland-Garros title later in May.
The 34-year-old dictated the rhythm in the opener, which he won 6-2 in half an hour, making the difference with his serve as he won 81 percent of his first-service points to his opponent’s 58 percent.
The second set started with Djokovic producing an early break of serve in an 8-minute game with his rival hitting his third double fault in the match.
The man who will contest his 89th ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal Friday opened a 3-1 advantage over Wawrinka before converting a double break; the Swiss player reacted fast, breaking back in the next game to set a 2-4 score.
Despite all efforts, the 37-year-old could not deny Djokovic the victory, which he sealed 6-2.
The 20-time grand slam champion fired 15 winners, recording 13 unforced errors while winning 75 percent of his first-service points and 50 percent with his second serve.
Furthermore, he converted 5 of 7 breakpoints to 1 of 4 from the Lausanne native.
Wawrinka hit 14 winners and 23 unforced errors, winning 58 percent of his first-service points and 36 with his second.
On Tuesday, the 21-year-old set off his campaign in Rome, beating Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in three sets, moving into the second round, taking out Giron.
Speaking about the Canadian player, Djokovic commented: “I have known Felix for quite a few years. He is a Top 10 player, so is right up there. He is a hard worker on the Tour that you see, and he is a nice guy. His all-around game is improving. He is improving on clay. I know his game and what is expected.”
Both players have never faced one another at tour level.