After what was already a wild day at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Thursday, Novak Djokovic struggled mightily against Philipp Kohlschreiber. Despite a slow start through the first set, Djokovic was able to pull out a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win at the Rome Masters.
Players like Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were all bounced in Rome, but Djokovic finished in thrilling fashion to advance. ESPN Tennis provides a look at a relieved Djokovic following the match:
Djokovic might have surged late in the match, but he had several uncharacteristic moments against Kohlschreiber. With just six out of 10 break points won and 24 unforced errors during the matchup, Djokovic still has work to do before contending in the next Grand Slam.
Tennis TV notes the entire match numbers from Thursday:
Thursday's match was the second for the Serbian after being forced to miss the Madrid Masters with a wrist injury. Djokovic spoke about the injury following his first win over Radek Stepanek, per BBC Sport:
"I expected to be a little bit rusty on the court, the conditions didn't help, but generally it was a good win," Djokovic said. "I'm happy with that and hope to elevate my performance in the next one."
Some of that rust was still apparent, as the match didn't start off well for the World No. 2 player, who fell behind early in the first set.
Kohlschreiber was able to break Djokovic's set twice early to apply pressure and take a 4-0 lead. Sky Sports Tennis and Tennis Now gave their reactions to the startling start for the Serbian:
Mr. Djokovic is hitting the snooze button at the moment. RT @jmeistennis: Quick double break lead for Kohlschreiber in 9 minutes.— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) May 15, 2014
Though he was able to climb back into the first set, those struggles wold continue for the Djoker. After getting the set back to a 4-4 tie, he then dropped the next two, losing the set.
At that point, it looked like an upset might be in the cards as the Serbian was never able to grab an advantage. Both Sports Illustrated and Christopher Clarey of The New York Times shared their thoughts on the shocking set:
Is there another upset in the cards? Philipp Kohlschreiber takes the first set 64 over Novak Djokovic.— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) May 15, 2014
The uprising of the #tennis proletariat continues. First set 6-4 to Kohlschreiber over Djokovic in Rome— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) May 15, 2014
As the second set got underway, Djokovic got off to a much better start by winning the first several games. Kohlschreiber was unable to match Djokovic's power and looked much less disciplined as Djokovic jumped out to a 5-1 lead.
Despite the better play in the middle set, Djokovic was displeased with the clay-court conditions. Matt Zemek of Scout.com and Carole Bouchard of L'Equipe noted Djokovic's frustration throughout the match:
Djokovic is unsatisfied with the court conditions for Rome, in what is becoming an annual event. Yet, he's in control of this match now.— Matt Zemek (@mzemek) May 15, 2014
Djokovic complaining to the umpire about the quality of the court behind the baseline. Staff at work.— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) May 15, 2014
Djokovic seemingly had no issues with the court conditions near the end of the set. He closed out Kohlschreiber 6-2 after having his serve broken.
While Kohlschreiber gave a valiant effort in the first set to push Djokovic, the latter returned to form in the third set to crush his opponent easily. After surrendering just two games in the middle frame, Djokovic got off to a 5-0 start in the final set and ultimately won it 6-1.
Tennis TV points out the match might remind some tennis fans of another dominant player in decisive sets:
Djokovic doing a Nadal in the decider. In firm control now. Up 4-0 final set. http://t.co/SyGMzo0RdQ— TennisTV (@TennisTV) May 15, 2014
The win for Djokovic puts him through to the quarterfinal in Rome, setting up a match with No. 5 David Ferrer. While Djoker comes into the match with an 11-5 advantage in the head-to-head between the two top-five players, Ferrer holds a 3-1 record on clay courts.
After knocking off some more cobwebs early in the first set against Kohlschreiber, Djokovic can't afford to fall behind against the Spaniard. He will certainly be tested again, and how Djoker responds might shape how he plays moving forward with the French Open beginning in less than two weeks.
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