ROM – Novak Djokovic’s look made it clear how angry the 22-time Grand Slam champion was at his opponent.
And it wasn’t just because Cameron Norrie hit him in the left calf with an overhead smash after Djokovic turned his back early in the second set and a point in the Serb’s 6-3, 6-4 win on Tuesday had collected.
There have also been other instances of poor sportsmanship from Norrie, Djokovic said after reaching the quarterfinals of the Italian Open for the 17th consecutive year.
Djokovic also criticized his British opponent taking a medical time-out just before he served.
“I was watching the replay when he hit me. Maybe you could say he didn’t hit me on purpose,” Djokovic said when asked about his angry look at Norrie after the incident. “Maybe that wasn’t the point. … From the beginning he did everything that was allowed. He is allowed to take a medical leave. He may hit a player. He’s allowed to say: ‘Come on.’ ‘ Face more or less every single point from the first game.
“Those are the things we players know in the dressing room. It’s not about fair play, it’s not about how we treat each other,” said Djokovic. “He brought the fire and I responded to that. I will not allow anyone to act like this and just bow my head. I will react to that.”
Apparently motivated by Norrie’s behavior, Djokovic put on his best clay-court performance of the year against 13th-seeded Norrie, who was not available for comment.
Also on the Campo Centrale, local hope Jannik Sinner was eliminated by Francisco Cerundolo 6: 7 (3), 6: 2, 6: 2. Cerundolo plays against Casper Ruud, who defeated Laslo Djere 6-1, 6-3.
On the women’s side, two-time Rome champion Iga Swiatek defeated Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-4 and next meets Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. In addition, Paula Badosa defeated Karolina Muchova 6: 4, 6: 7 (4), 6: 2 and will play against the 2017 French Open winner, Jelena Ostapenko.
Djokovic was targeting his seventh title at the Foro Italico and was in control throughout the match after struggling intermittently in the previous rounds and in his previous two tournaments on clay.
On a cloudy day after raining all morning, Djokovic looked focused from the start.
“In fact, I finished my warm-up 10 minutes before stepping onto the pitch. So I hurried a bit, but we didn’t make it.” [warm up] “Earlier because of the rain,” said Djokovic. “So I’m just happy to take today’s challenge in straight sentences and move on.”
Djokovic was spotted in the coach’s room before the game after being sidelined for three weeks ahead of this tournament with an ongoing problem with his surgically repaired right elbow.
“Every day is something,” said 35-year-old Djokovic, without specifying what was bothering him.
Djokovic committed less than half as many unforced errors as Norrie, 14-29; and had two other winners, 21-19.
Norrie won a title on clay earlier this year in Rio de Janeiro by beating Carlos Alcaraz in the final.
Djokovic will lose the No. 1 ranking to Alcaraz after this tournament – even if Alcaraz were beaten by 135th Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan in the third round on Monday.
Alcaraz will therefore be seeded as No. 1 and Djokovic as No. 2 at the French Open, which starts in 12 days.
Next, Djokovic meets seventh-seeded Holger Rune in a rematch of the Paris Masters final, which the 20-year-old Dane won in November. Rune defeated Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
“He kinda reminds me a little bit of the way he plays,” Djokovic said of Rune. “Physically really fit, great defense but also great counterattack. It can hurt you on both the forehand and backhand sides. Really solid serve. Aggressive returns. Simply an all-round player on all surfaces.”
Rune reached the final of the Monte Carlo Masters last month.
“It will be a very physical game,” said Djokovic.
Also, 2017 champion Alexander Zverev finished 3-3 in the second set on Monday in a 6-4, 7-5 win over JJ Wolf in a game suspended due to rain.
Zverev will later play against Daniil Medvedev again in the 15th meeting of the two in their career.
Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Lorenzo Sonego 6-3, 7-6 (3) in another match that started on Monday. Tsitsipas is set to play another Italian Lorenzo Musetti later in the night’s session.
Musetti defeated Frances Tiafoe 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in a game that was also suspended.