Italian Open: Novak Djokovic reaches last 16 in Rome after hard-fought win over Grigor Dimitrov

Novak Djokovic continued his Italian Open title defense with a hard-fought 6-3 4-6 6-1 victory over Bulgarian 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday.

Djokovic, who will lose his world No 1 ranking at the end of the tournament to Carlos Alcaraz, overcame a sluggish start and a late comeback attempt by Dimitrov to book a place in the last 16.

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 career 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, then reel off four-straight games from 2-4 down to ultimately claim the second set and force a decider. But Djokovic responded strongly and let out a roar after securing a double break in the third and held firm to advance.

The 35-year-old could potentially face British No 1 Cameron Norrie in the fourth round, as he awaits the winner of his third-round clash with Marton Fucsovics.

Elsewhere, Daniil Medvedev posted his first career win in Rome by beating Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4 6-2. The Russian had lost his opener in his previous three appearances at the tournament.

Also, Holger Rune eliminated Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-2 and Stefanos Tsitsipas needed just two games to finish off a second-round win over Nuno Borges, 6-3, 6-3, in a match that had been suspended due to rain on Saturday.

Women’s No 1 Swiatek breaks through | Gauff crashes out

Two-time defending champion in Rome, Iga Swiatek swept aside Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 6-0 in the third round of the women’s tournament.

Iga Swiatek of Poland reacts during her match against Jessica Pegula of the United States at the e final of the Qatar Open WTA tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed)
Iga Swiatek is through to the fourth round in Rome as she looks to win the title for a third year running

The Polish world No 1 dropped the first two games of the match before then rattling off the next 12 in a row to win in emphatic fashion.

The victory extended her winning streak in Rome to 13 matches and she again looks in ominous form, having dispatched former French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0 6-0 in her second-round clash. She will face Liudmila Samsonova or 21st seed Donna Vekic in the fourth round.

Elsewhere, sixth seed Coco Gauff crashed out against Marie Bouzkova, who sealed a 4-6 6-2 6-2 win over the American teenager.

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.

Madison Keys also advanced to the fourth round as a result of Victoria Azarenka withdrawing before their match due to a right leg injury.