Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Djokovic sweeps into Italian Open quarter-finals in front of spectators

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns a forehand to Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich during their match of the Men’s Italian Open at Foro Italico on May 13, 2021 in Rome, Italy. — AFP pic

ROME, May 13: World number one Novak Djokovic swept into the Italian Open quarter-finals on Thursday with a straight sets wins over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in front of spectators who were allowed to watch in the Foro Italico.

The five-time Rome champion won through 6-2, 6-1 in 70 minutes against the 48th-ranked Spaniard with the venue filled to 25 per cent of capacity for the first time amid the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
“It was not good, it was great. I missed the crowd,” said the 33-year-old, who next plays Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of last year’s French Open semi-final which the Serb won.
Fifth seed Tsitsipas ended the run of home hope Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in 1hr 36min.
“It always feels like home coming back to Rome,” said Djokovic, who has never failed to reach the quarter-finals in his 15 appearances in the clay-court event.
“Honestly, with the amount of love and appreciation that I get and respect from people here, not just on the court, but outside in the organisation here, from the drivers, the restaurant, people in hotel, everyone is really super kind to me.
“Maybe it helps that I speak Italian. Probably does. I love Italy. Who doesn’t?”
“Each year the love affair grows even more because the bond is stronger and stronger.
“Hopefully I can feel a little bit of that love more tomorrow so I can keep on progressing in the tournament.”
After losing his opening service game, Djokovic powered back with five breaks of serve, outclassing his rival, despite a late fightback, to seal the win on his sixth match point.
“He started well, but I managed to break back straight away and establish the control and consistency,” said the 18-time Grand Slam winner.
“I thought I played at least 20-30 percent better than on Monday. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”
Djokovic has a 4-2 record against Monte-Carlo champion Tsitsipas who ended the run of Madrid runner-up Berrettini.
“I hope to do better this time,” said Tsitsipas, who lost a five-set marathon in last year’s Roland Garros.
Djokovic has won his past seven quarter-finals in Rome, with a 11-3 record in the last eight. Tsitsipas reached the semi-finals in Rome in 2019.
American Reilly Opelka also advanced to his second Masters 1000 quarter-final with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 victory against in-form Russian Aslan Karatsev in 1hr 36min.
The 23-year-old hit 18 aces and saved two set points at 4/6 in the first-set tie-break to set up a meeting with either Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime or Spaniard Federico Delbonis in the last eight.
Meanwhile fans were happy to return after more than a year without live sport.
“After all this time it’s good to be able to watch live sport,” said Alessandro Cimini one of the first to arrive at the Foro Italico with his son to watch Djokovic followed by Rafael Nadal in action.
“We bought tickets in January 2020 and we can finally come! On the one hand I’m happy it feels good after all we’ve been through even if obviously it’s not yet back to normal on centre court,” added another tennis fan Rosy De Luigi, who travelled from San Marino.
The Italian Cup final in Reggio Emilio next Wednesday will also have a limited crowd followed by the Euro 2020 in the capital’s Stadio Olimpico.
Top seed Ash Barty to meet Coco Gauff in Italian Open quarters

Ash Barty
Ashleigh Barty (pictured) won 6-3, 6-3 against Veronika Kudermetova. PHOTO: REUTERS

World number one Ashleigh Barty eased into the quarter-finals of the Italian Open on Thursday with a straight sets win over Russian Veronika Kudermetova.
The top-seeded Australian won through 6-3, 6-3 to set up a clash with US teenager Coco Gauff who earlier ousted Madrid winner Aryna Sabalenka.
Barty, 25, lost to Sabalenka in last weekend’s Madrid final and is warming-up for the French Open which she won in 2019.
Belarus’ Sabalenka, the world number four and seventh seed, fell 7-5, 6-3 to the 17-year-old Gauff, ranked 35, who reached her fourth quarter-final of the year.
“It will be great to see where my level is,” said Gauff of playing Barty.
“I mean, she’s the No. 1 player in the world. I have no pressure on me.
“I’m just going to go out there and see what I can do and try my best.”
Six of the WTA’s top ten players have already exited the Foro Italico including second-seed Naomi Osaka of Japan, four-time Rome winner Serena Williams, Sofia Kenin and Petra Kvitova.
Defending champion Simona Halep, the third seed, was forced out with a calf injury in her second round match.
“Hopefully I can continue that momentum into Paris,” continued Gauff of her bid to reach her second semi-final this year after Adelaide as she builds to the French Open.
“Obviously I want to keep going and keep going further. I’m not going to be satisfied until I reach my goal,” added Gauff who won her first WTA singles title at the 2019 Linz Open.

“Especially during that time people were saying, It’s a fluke, it will never happen again.
“I think I’ve proved all those people wrong. I’m going to continue to prove them wrong.” (AFP)