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Djokovic Finishes Strong, Faces Soderling Next

Rome, Italy

Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic saved all six break points faced on serve.

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic marched into the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and extended his winning streak to 36 straight matches after defeating 14th-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-1 Thursday night.

The last time the pair faced off in Rome, Djokovic had rallied from a set down in the 2008 final to capture his first clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.

On Thursday, Wawrinka again looked poised to take an early lead with four chances to break Djokovic’s serve in the opening set. He was unable to capitalise, however, and the Serbian secured the first break to clinch the set. Djokovic quickly raced out to a 5-0 lead in the second set and closed out the match on serve after one hour and 33 minutes.

The 23-year-old Djokovic, also a Rome finalist in 2009, is looking to strip two-time defending champion Rafael Nadal of both the title and No. 1 South African Airways ATP Ranking this week in Rome, but will need help from Marin Cilic, who plays the World No. 1 in quarter-final action Friday.

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Djokovic, meanwhile, will attempt to improve upon his perfect 34-0 start to the season when he faces two-time Roland Garros finalist Robin Soderling in Friday night’s quarter-final. Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 5-1, but the Swede won their most recent meeting at the 2009 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

World No. 5 Soderling topped ninth seeded Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 earlier Thursday in a match between two accomplished clay-court players to advance to his first Rome quarter-final.

Almagro had break point at 4-4 in the third set, but did not convert, and Soderling subsequently broke the Spaniard in an exciting final game to lock up the victory. The Swede enjoyed success at the net, winning 22 of 25 points when he came forward to improve his head-to-head record against Almagro to 5-3. The Spaniard had won three of his four matches versus Soderling on clay, including the previous three.

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