Djokovic Achieves A First For 2018 In Rome
The four-time champion in the Italian capital put on an impressive performance to oust 2017 Monte-Carlo finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 7-5, reaching his first ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season.
"I'm happy. I haven't had too many matches of this quality of my tennis in the past 12 months," Djokovic said. "I think this was probably one of the three matches that I played this way in the past 12 months. So, it felt good. And it came at the right time in the place where I love to play, where I get a lot of support... I feel like each match is getting better. So, hopefully, it's going to continue in this direction."
Djokovic is into his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final since last year’s visit to Rome. He has now won three consecutive matches for the first time since the Australian Open.
It is perfect timing for Djokovic’s resurgence, as the Serbian, last year's runner-up at the Foro Italico, is defending 600 ATP Rankings points from his performance in Rome in 2017. If he would have lost to Ramos-Vinolas, Djokovic would have fallen outside the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since 17 July 2006, when he was No. 36.
The 30-year-old set a rematch of his opening-round victory in Madrid against Monte-Carlo runner-up Kei Nishikori, who, on the comeback from right-wrist surgery, reached his second Masters 1000 quarter-final of the year (Monte-Carlo). Djokovic owns a 12-2 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
"It was strange playing Kei in the first round in Madrid. But, it was a very close match," Djokovic said. "I expect the same tomorrow. I expect a big fight from both of us."
The Japanese star dominated German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-1, 6-2 in 64 minutes. Nishikori hit 14 winners to only 10 unforced errors.
Djokovic showed reason to believe he is well-prepared for that blockbuster. From the moment Djokovic hit an inside-out forehand winner to break for 2-0 in the first set, it was clear the Serbian was locked in. Throughout the match, he showed renewed confidence in his two-handed backhand, consistently stepping into the court to take control of points with the stroke, and even sneaking in to take some of the Spaniard's slices out of the air for confident putaway volleys.
Djokovic's only slip in the match came as he served for victory at 5-4 in the second set. Ramos-Vinolas suddenly began to go after his forehand, keeping Djokovic behind the baseline, eliciting some loose errors from the Serbian. But the former World No. 1 immediately broke back and did not waste his second chance to close out the match, hitting an ace to complete his hold to love.
Did You Know?
This year in Rome, Novak Djokovic has won six consecutive sets, and has not lost more than five games in those sets.