Djokovic crushes old foe Wawrinka to book quarter-final spot in Rome
The world No 1 will meet Felix Auger-Aliassime after reaching the last eight in the Italian capital for the 16th time
Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have combined for some titanic battles in their time but it was plain sailing for world No 1 Djokovic on Thursday as he booked his place in the last eight of the Rome Masters.
The Serb broke in the first game and ran out a convincing 6-2, 6-2 winner to set up a clash with Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals on Friday. It’s the 16th time he’s made the last eight in Rome and he has now won 998 matches on the ATP Tour.
Djokovic needs to reach at least the semi-finals if he is to remain world No 1 next week and the Serb was delighted with his performance.
“It’s great to see Stan back, he won two tough matches. He’s not physically where he wants to be but nevertheless, he’s Stan Wawrinka, he can hurt you if you give him time.
“I managed to do well, I think from the beginning I really moved him around the court. I held my serve pretty comfortably, except that loss of the serve in the second set, pretty much a very good performance.
Since they last met in 2019 at the US Open (a match Wawrinka won when Djokovic retired two sets down through injury), the Swiss has had two operations on his left foot, causing him to miss most of 2021.
After fighting his way back from two serious knee operations in 2017 to get back into the world’s top 20, the foot trouble in 2021 dropped Wawrinka right down the rankings to his current mark of 361.
But wins over Reilly Opelka and Laslo Djere in Rome this week have given Wawrinka great heart and he’ll rise more than 100 places in the rankings next week.
Djokovic, though, was in no mood to give him another big win and with his serve working smoothly, he eased to victory, though he did have to save a break point in the second game of the second set which might have turned the tide, had Wawrinka managed to pinch it.
The Swiss did get one break later in the second set but though he’ll be pleased with some positive signs this week, it is Djokovic who will now look ahead to a clash with Auger-Aliassime as he chases his first title of 2022.