Novak Djokovic was in no mood to stay on court on Thursday, and especially during his second match of the day against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber. The top-seeded Serbian sprinted past the German 6-3, 6-0, running away with the third-round match at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome behind 22 winners to only five from the 35-year-old Kohlschreiber.
Djokovic, a four-time champion in Rome, set up a quarter-final with Juan Martin del Potro in a rematch of their US Open final last September, which Djokovic won in straight sets to improve to 15-4 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. The two have met twice in Rome, in 2009 and 2017, both straight-sets wins for Djokovic.
“He’s a top-class player. He always has been. I have tons of respect for him as a player and also as a person. He’s a really nice guy. He has a huge serve, huge forehand, probably one of the best, if not the best, forehand on the Tour, one of the best serves. He uses that really well. He’s struggled a lot with injuries but he seems to be feeling good and playing well here so it’s going to be a tough one,” Djokovic said.
Del Potro, in only his third tournament of the year, beat Norway's #NextGenATP star Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4 to make his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final of the season. Del Potro competed in February in Delray Beach before returning to action at the Mutua Madrid Open, another clay-court Masters 1000 event, last week.
Earlier, the seventh-seeded Argentine beat Belgian David Goffin 6-4, 6-2 to face Ruud, who posted his best result yet at a Masters 1000 event. Djokovic started his day with a 66-minute 6-1, 6-3 rout of #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
“I’m very pleased with both matches. I was very solid. I got off to a great start in both matches and never lost rhythm, really,” Djokovic said.
Kohlschreiber beat Djokovic in March at the season's first Masters 1000 event, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which features slower conditions. But the Serbian dominated from start to finish in Italy, breaking in the second game and prevailed in two deuce service games to take the opener. The top seed surged in the second, hitting lines as Kohlschreiber struggled to stay pace.
“The entire match, especially the second set, went completely to my side. I felt the ball really well. Obviously completely different conditions playing at night. It’s colder, the ball bounces lower than during the day. So obviously that’s not favorable to Philipp, who plays with a lot of spin. I’m just really glad to overcome the challenge,” Djokovic said.