ROME – Serbian star Novak Djokovic defeated Albert Ramos Viñolas 6-1, 7-5 Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Italian Open, his first berth in the last eight of an ATP tournament this season.
The four-time champion needed an hour and 28 minutes to defeat the 41st-ranked Spaniard.
The 18th-ranked Djokovic played at close to peak level on his ground strokes for large stretches of the third-round contest and was particularly sharp on his return games, breaking Ramos Viñolas’ serve twice in each set.
Afterward, the 12-time Grand Slam champion spoke as if he believed he had turned a corner after a prolonged slump.
“I’m happy. I haven’t had too many matches of this quality of my tennis in the past 12 months,” Djokovic said. “I feel like each match is getting better. So, hopefully, it’s going to continue in this direction.”
The Serbian, who returned to action in January after missing the last several months of 2017 due to an elbow injury and has seen his ranking fall to its lowest point in nearly a dozen years, also was impressive in victories earlier this week over Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov and Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Djokovic will square off Friday against Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who rolled to a 6-1, 6-2 third-round victory over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in just over an hour.
The Serbian has won 12 of his 14 meetings against the Japanese player, the most recent victory coming at last week’s Madrid Open.
Nishikori, a former world No. 4 who is currently ranked No. 24, also has his eye on a return to the top 10 after recovering from a wrist injury.