Djokovic passes Krajinovic test; Halep and Pliskova advance in Rome
ROME - World number one Novak Djokovic survived a marathon first set before winning 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 against fellow Serb Filip Krajinovic on Friday to reach the Rome Masters quarter-finals.
In the women's WTA Premier event, top seeds Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova both advanced to the last eight after contrasting displays.
Second-seeded Czech Pliskova cruised to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Russian Anna Blinkova while number one seed Halep struggled at the start of her 7-5, 6-4 triumph over Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska.
Djokovic and Krajinovic missed 12 break points between them until the two compatriots reached a tie-break in an exhaustive first set that lasted one hour and 27 minutes.
"In the first set it was a great battle," Djokovic said.
"We went toe-to-toe and it could have gone a different way but it was one of the longest sets I've ever played. It was long rallies and battling through so I'm happy with the win."
Djokovic, who is aiming for a record-breaking 36th Masters title at the Foro Italico, broke serve twice in the second set to take the match after 2:07 hours.
He will meet one of two qualifiers next in either Germany's Dominik Koepfer or Italian debutant Lorenzo Musetti, the 18-year-old who eliminated three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka in his opening match.
"It was very impressive," Djokovic commented on Musetti.
"He's definitely a player to look at in the next years and Koepfer will be tough so hopefully I get to recover and start a better match than I did today."
The @InteBNLdItalia QFs are set! Who will take the title? 🏆— ATP Tour (@atptour) September 18, 2020
🇷![CDATA]>🇸 Djokovic v Koepfer 🇩![CDATA]>🇪
🇮![CDATA]>🇹 Berrettini v Ruud 🇳![CDATA]>🇴
🇨![CDATA]>🇦 Shapovalov v Dimitrov 🇧![CDATA]>🇬
🇦![CDATA]>🇷 Schwartzman v Nadal 🇪![CDATA]>🇸
Halep, the world number two, had to fight back from 3-0 down in the first set after losing her opening service game but the Romanian broke back twice to take the lead.
"After I lost the first three games, I had just to focus a little bit better and to stop giving her the ball that she likes," Halep explained.
"It gives me confidence that even in these conditions with a big hitter I could win in two sets."
Yastremska, ranked 29th in the world, found her fortunes reversed in set two when she was 3-0 down and Halep successfully served out the match.
She will now face Kazakstan's Yulia Puntintseva, who succeeded in an all-Kazakh affair with Elena Rybakina 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
Halep says her next contest will be a "tough battle" but she has the confidence to win the whole tournament.
"I know I have the game to win this tournament," she said. "I have been two times to the final so I think here is a good chance."
Meanehile, Pliskova is the defending Rome champion and continues her defence against Belgium's Elise Mertens who progressed to the last eight by surpassing Montenegrin qualifier Danka Kovinic 6-4, 6-4.
US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka is also through after Russian qualifier Daria Kasatkina retired through injury in the first set tie-break at 6-6.
The Belarusian former world number one will meet Spain's Garbine Muguruza in the last eight after her 6-4, 6-1 success against Britain's Johanna Konta.
On the men's side, Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov and Italian fourth seed Matteo Berrettini were the first players through to the quarters.
Dimitrov battled from a set down to prevail 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 against 19-year-old Jannik Sinner from Italy while Berrettini conquered compatriot Stefano Travaglia over two tie-breaks 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-1).
Dimitrov goes up against Canadian Denis Shapovalov next after the 21-year-old battled to a 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4 victory over Frenchman Ugo Humbert.
Berrettini meets Norwegian Casper Ruud after he dispatched Croatia's Marin Cilic 6-2, 7-6 (8-6).
Defending Rome champion Rafael Nadal continues his campaign in Rome later Friday as he takes on Serbia's Dusan Lajovic for a place in the quarter-finals.