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Novak Djokovic reaches Italian Open quarterfinals for 17th straight year

Internazionali BNL D'Italia 2023 - Day Nine

ROME, ITALY - MAY 16: Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand during the Men’s Singles match against Cameron Norrie of Great Britain at Foro Italico on May 16, 2023 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images)

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ROME -- Novak Djokovic was in command from the start and never really let up in a 6-3, 6-4 win over 13th-seeded Cameron Norrie to reach the Italian Open quarterfinals for the 17th straight year.

Aiming for his seventh title on the red clay of the Foro Italico, Djokovic had his entire game clicking after struggling at times in the previous rounds.

On an overcast day after it had rained all morning, Djokovic appeared focused from the start.

“I actually finished my warmup 10 minutes before I went on the court. So I was rushing a bit with everything but we couldn’t (warm up) earlier because of the rain,” Djokovic said. “So I’m just glad to overcome today’s challenge in straight sets and move on.”

Also, Djokovic was seen in the trainer’s room before the match. He recently took three weeks off because of a lingering issue with his surgically repaired right elbow.

“Every day is something,” the 35-year-old Djokovic said, without specifying what was bothering him. “But thankfully I was able to play and finish the match, so hopefully tomorrow it will feel a bit better.”

Early in the second set after the players traded breaks to make it 2-2, Djokovic appeared furious with Norrie.

Djokovic had already turned with his back to the net in the center of the court to concede a break point when Norrie’s overhead smash hit him in the body. Djokovic then turned around and glared at Norrie, who had already raised his hand to apologize.

Then after Djokovic broke for a 5-4 lead in the second and was preparing to serve out the match, Norrie asked for a medical timeout and had his side treated on court by a trainer.

Djokovic committed less half as many unforced errors as Norrie, 14-29; and had two more winners, 21-19.

Norrie won a title on clay in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year, beating Carlos Alcaraz in the final.

Djokovic will lose the No. 1 ranking to Alcaraz after this tournament - even though Alcaraz was beaten by 135th-ranked Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan in the third round.

Alcaraz will therefore be seeded No. 1 and Djokovic will be No. 2 at the French Open, which starts in 12 days.

Djokovic will next face either seventh-seeded Holger Rune or Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin, who were playing on the Grandstand.

Local hope Jannik Sinner was to play Francisco Cerundolo in the same half of the draw as Djokovic

In women’s action on Campo Centrale, two-time defending Rome champion Iga Swiatek was scheduled to play Donna Vekic.