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Novak Djokovic surges into 17th straight Rome quarterfinal after tense Cameron Norrie clash
Djokovic shook off a second-set body shot and medical timeout from his British rival to maintain his impressive consistency at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
Published May 16, 2023
WATCH: Djokovic showed some displeasure after a tense finish to his 67th match win at the Foro Italico.
Novak Djokovic has never done worse than the quarterfinals in all 16 of his previous trips to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and the world No. 1 kept that streak alive in 2023, weathering “strange conditions” and feisty opposition to defeat Cameron Norrie, 6-3, 6-4.
A no-look handshake at the net could imply Djokovic a six-time champion at the Foro Italico, wasn’t too pleased with neither an ill-timed overhead nor Norrie’s decision to take a medical timeout before the final game, but the Serb was otherwise affable on court after the match.
“So far, so good,” he said after advancing in just under 90 minutes. “It was an early start today, strange conditions. We warmed up just, like, 20 minutes. I finished my warm-up 10 minutes before coming on court, so was rushing a bit with everything. But we couldn’t play earlier because of the rain, so I’m glad to have overcome today’s challenges in straight sets and move on.”
Every day is something, but thankfully I was able to play and finish the match, so hopefully tomorrow we’ll feel even better. Novak Djokovic
Djokovic arrived in Rome under an injury cloud, having looked below his physical best since kicking off the clay-court season at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, but appears to be rounding into form at one of his favorite tournaments despite reportedly requiring treatment before the match began on Tuesday.
“Every day is something,” he laughed, “But thankfully I was able to play and finish the match, so hopefully tomorrow we’ll feel even better.”
The top seed was less in a joking mood as the match tightened in the second set after an early exchange of breaks. Turning his back after shanking a drop shot, Djokovic sent a glare Norrie’s way when the Brit drilled him in the leg with an overhead.
“From the very beginning, he was doing all the things that were allowed,” he explained in post-match press. “He's allowed to take a medical timeout. He's allowed to hit a player. He's allowed to say ‘C'mon’ in the face more or less every single point from basically first game. Those are the things that we players know in the locker room it's not fair play, it's not how we treat each other. But, again, it's allowed, so...
“I got along with Cameron really well all these years that he's been on the tour. Practiced with each other. He's very nice guy off the court, so I don't understand this kind of attitude on the court, to be honest, but it is what it is. He brought the fire, and I responded to that. I'm not going to allow someone behaving like this just bending my head. I'm going to respond to that.
“That's all it is. What happens on the court, we leave it on the court, and we move on.”
Rallying to put himself a game from victory, Djokovic was put on ice while Norrie had a hip/glute issue examined but nonetheless roared back from 0-30 down to subsequently serve out the match, striking a clean 21 winners to 14 errors while Norrie more often struggled for consistency with 29 errors in two sets.
Waiting for Djokovic in the last eight will be a rematch of last fall’s Rolex Paris Masters final with Danish youngster Holger Rune, who solved Aussie Alexei Popyrin, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, to book what would be one of the most anticipated matches of the week—particularly in light of No. 2 seed Carlos Alcaraz’s shock exit on Monday.