Novak Djokovic stumbles at Italian Open but battles past Grigor Dimitrov
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Novak Djokovic continued his Italian Open title defence with a 6-3 4-6 6-1 victory over Bulgarian 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov while women’s champion Iga Swiatek dished out another “bagel” as she defeated Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.
Djokovic, who will lose his world No 1 ranking at the end of the Masters 1000 tournament to Carlos Alcaraz, overcame a sluggish start and a late comeback attempt by familiar opponent Dimitrov to get over the line in their third-round meeting.
Both players surrendered serve early in the first set before Djokovic raised his game to pull away for a 4-1 lead, and an 11th victory over Dimitrov in 12 meetings began to look inevitable.
Dimitrov, whose only win over the Serbian world No 1 came 10 years ago in Madrid, produced a tight hold but could not prevent his opponent from running away with the opening set and grabbing the advantage in the next.
The former world No 3 did however reel off four straight games from 2-4 to take the second set and force a decider. But Djokovic responded strongly and let out a roar after securing a double break in the third set and held firm this time to advance.
Two-times defending champion Swiatek earlier dropped the first two games of her third-round clash with Tsurenko. But the world No 1 hit back to claim the next 12 for a 6-2 6-0 victory that extended her Rome win streak to 13 matches.
Iga Swiatek dominated Lesia Tsurenko in Rome
The Polish top seed has looked in ominous form at the Foro Italico having mowed down former French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0 6-0 and will continue her build-up to Roland Garros with a clash against Liudmila Samsonova or Donna Vekic.
Former Paris runner-up Marketa Vondrousova knocked out Greek ninth seed Maria Sakkari 7-5 6-3 and will have another chance to continue her giant-killing run in Rome when she takes on Elena Rybakina or Anna Kalinskaya in the round of 16.
Sixth seed Coco Gauff later crashed out against Marie Bouzkova, who sealed a 4-6 6-2 6-2 win.
Daniil Medvedev broke his Rome duck on his fourth attempt with a clinical second-round win over Emil Ruusuvuori.
“It’s a little bit (of a relief),” Medvedev said after his 6-4 6-2 win. “Whenever I come to a tournament, I know that I can play well, so I’m happy to finally get the win here in Rome.”
Last year’s runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas also cruised into the third round, needing only five minutes to win the two games needed to complete a 6-3 6-3 victory after the contest was suspended on Saturday due to rain.
Seventh seed Holger Rune was equally impressive in his 6-4 6-2 win over local favourite Fabio Fognini and will meet Alexei Popyrin in round four after the Australian overcame Roman Safiullin 7-5 7-5.
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