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Novak Djokovic soars past Cameron Norrie into Italian Open quarter-finals

Novak Djokovic soars past Cameron Norrie into Italian Open quarter-finals
© Reuters
Novak Djokovic takes another step towards defending his Italian Open crown with a 6-3 6-4 win over British number one Cameron Norrie in the last 16.

Defending Italian Open champion Novak Djokovic comfortably punched his ticket to the quarter-finals with a straight-sets win over British number one Cameron Norrie on centre court.

The 35-year-old took an hour and a half to seal a 6-3 6-4 victory in a vintage clay performance, propelling him into the Rome quarters for an astounding 17th time in a row.

Almost everything that could have gone right did go right for Djokovic in the early exchanges, as the Serbian raced into a 3-0 lead - breaking in the second game on a Norrie forehand error.

The British number one beat away another break point for Djokovic with an ace before getting on the board, but the defending champion continued to work Norrie across the court, in spite of a few double faults on serve.

Djokovic brought up two set points on Norrie's serve in game eight but failed to convert either of them, as the Briton made his opponent serve out the first set, which he did after forcing Norrie into an error at the net.

A love hold and immediate break would seemingly put Djokovic on the brink of a place in the last eight, as the 35-year-old left the crowd in awe with a tremendous forehand return from the corner en route to a 2-1 lead.

Cameron Norrie pictured at the Italian Open on May 12, 2023© Reuters

However, Norrie belatedly troubled Djokovic's serve in the next game, converting his second break point to quickly get the contest back on serve, but not without a dose of drama.

With both players waiting for the ball to drop at the net on break point, Djokovic seemed to know that the game was lost and turned his back, but Norrie proceeded to whack a volley off of the Serbian's ankle.

Djokovic stared Norrie down as the British number one immediately put his hand up in remorse, and he caught another evil eye from his opponent while walking to the chair after backing up the break with a hold for a 3-2 lead.

A few uneventful holds followed that brief set-to, but Djokovic forced the issue in the ninth game to move 40-0 up on Norrie's serve, and the writing was on the wall when the 27-year-old sent a backhand wide and ceded the break.

An ace down the T brought up Djokovic's first match point, which Norrie saved, but the champion quickly teed up another and witnessed Norrie's attempt at a powerful backhand return strike the net to seal the deal.

"So far so good. It was an early start in strange conditions, I finished my warm-up five minutes before I went on the court, I was rushing a bit. We couldn't play earlier because of the rain so I'm happy to get through in straight sets," Djokovic said on the court after a curt handshake with Norrie at the net.

Either Alexei Popyrin or Danish seventh seed Holger Rune will stand in Djokovic's way of a 10th straight semi-final appearance at the Italian Open.

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Cameron Norrie pictured at the Italian Open on May 12, 2023
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