Novak into Italian Open quarters, but Popyrin out
Novak Djokovic has booked a spot in the last eight of the Italian Open quarter-finals for the 17th successive year, defeating 13th-seeded Briton Cameron Norrie 6-3 6-4.
However Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin was unable to maintain his five-match winning run in Rome to earn a match-up with the Serb, losing to seventh-seeded Holger Rune.
Popyrin went down fighting in a three-hour scrap 6-4 5-7 6-4, dishing out 11 aces compared to Rune's two.
In the third set Rune broke at 2-2, to 30. Popyrin twice got to 30-30 on the Dane's subsequent service games but never forced a break point and increasingly struggled to hold his own serve.
At 3-5 down and serving to stay in the game he took 15 minutes to hold, saving four match points. But he was then blown away to love as Rune served out.
Popyrin has played Djokovic once before, in Tokyo on a hard court in 2019 with the multiple grand slam winner emerging the victor in straight sets.
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.
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."
Djokovic was unhappy during the game with Norrie whose overhead smash hit him in the body after the Serbian had turned his back, conceding a point. Djokovic turned around and glared at Norrie, who had already raised his hand to apologise.
The Briton later asked for a medical timeout after Djokovic broke for a 5-4 lead in the second and was preparing to serve out the match.
"He's allowed to take a medical timeout. He's allowed to hit a player. He's allowed to say 'come on' in the face more or less every point from the first game.
"Those are the things we players know in the locker room isn't fair play, it's not how we treat each other. But, it's allowed, so..."
Djokovic said he normally got on well with Norrie.
"We practised with each other. He's a very nice guy off the court so I don't understand. What happens on the court, we leave on the court and move on."
Later on Campo Centrale, local hope Jannik Sinner was eliminated by Francisco Cerundolo 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-2. Cerundolo will play fourth seed Casper Ruud, who beat Laslo Djere 6-1, 6-3.
Daniil Medvedev beat Alexander Zverev 6-2 7-6 (7-3) to set up a quarter-final against Yannick Hanfmann, who came out on top 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3 against sixth seed Andrey Rublev.
"He started to play a little bit better for sure," said Medvedev, when asked about the difficulties he faced in the second set. "I made a few easy errors, but that's tennis and I knew that I had to continue.
"I saw a little bit of [Hanfmann's] match today and I saw his third set against [Marco] Cecchinato. He's playing well right now," added Medvedev
Olympic champion Zverev had earlier beaten Jeffrey John Wolf in a match carried over due to Monday evening rain.
There was mixed news for home players in the other third round matches delayed overnight. Lorenzo Musetti defeated Frances Tiafoe 5-7 6-4 6-3 but Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Lorenzo Sonego 6-3 7-6. Musetti and Tsitsipas then met in Tuesday's late match.
- with agencies