Holder Novak Djokovic powered past Briton Cameron Norrie 6-3 6-4 in a tense match to reach the Italian Open quarter-finals on Tuesday and remain on track for a seventh title in Rome.
Djokovic made slow starts to his opening two matches but the fired-up world number one quickly opened up a 3-0 lead and let slip two opportunities to break Rio champion Norrie a second time before taking the first set on serve.
The duo swapped breaks early in a spicy second set in which Norrie’s overhead shot hit Djokovic on the leg after the Serbian had turned his back on the net. The 22-times Grand Slam champion continued to stare down Norrie at the end of the fifth game.
An error-prone Norrie surrendered his serve again and had treatment for a right leg issue, before top seed Djokovic came from 0-30 down in the final game of the contest to complete the victory over the world number 13 on his second match point.
“So far so good,” Djokovic, who will meet seventh seed Holger Rune in the last eight, said.
“It was an early start today. Strange conditions. I actually finished my warm-up 10 minutes before I went on the court so I was rushing a bit with everything but we couldn’t play earlier because of the rain.
“I’m just glad to overcome today’s challenge in straight sets and move on.”
Djokovic skipped the Madrid event due to an elbow injury and spent time getting treatment for an unspecified issue but the 35-year-old said there was no cause for fresh concern.
“Every day there’s something,” said Djokovic. “Thankfully, I was able to play and finish the match and hopefully tomorrow I will feel even better.”
Rune battled past Alexei Popyrin 6-4 5-7 6-4 to set up a rematch of last year’s Paris Masters final, where the 20-year-old Dane beat Djokovic in three sets.
Iga Swiatek continued her title defence with a 6-3 6-4 win over Donna Vekic to set up an intriguing quarter-final meeting with Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
Men’s fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas downed Lorenzo Sonego 6-3 7-6(3) in a match postponed due to rain on Monday and plays another Italian in Lorenzo Musetti for a quarter-final spot.
Daniil Medvedev beat Alexander Zverev 6-2 7-6(3) to set up a quarter-final against Yannick Hanfmann, who came out on top 7-6(5) 4-6 6-3 against sixth seed and Monte Carlo champion Andrey Rublev.
Argentine Francisco Cerundolo beat Jannik Sinner 6-7(3) 6-2 6-2 to set up a clash against fourth seed Casper Ruud.