Novak Djokovic has ended Stan Wawrinka’s hopes of stringing together a hat-trick of match wins for the first time in 18 months with a 6-2 6-2 thumping in the last 16 of the Italian Open.
The 37-year-old Swiss, who hadn’t played for 12 months after undergoing two surgeries for a foot injury, battled past Reilly Opelka and Laslo Djere to set up a 26th meeting with top seed Djokovic in the Italian capital, and first since 2019.
But the 361st ranked Wawrinka, who last won three successive matches at the 2020 Paris Masters, could not cope with Djokovic’s baseline intensity in the first set of Thursday’s clash at the Foro Italico and was broken twice.
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Wawrinka showed incredible defence to break Djokovic in the sixth game of the second set but a double break from the world No.1 carried him to victory.
It was Djokovic’s 20th win over Wawrinka – and 998th career victory – as he bids to become the fifth player to reach the 1000-win mark.
“It is great to see Stan back,” the Serbian said. “He won two matches here, he is still physically not there, but he is still Stan and can hurt you.
“From the beginning, I really moved him around the court and held my serve well. I know what is expected from me next.”
The world No.1 Djokovic will face Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals after the 21-year-old beat American Marcos Giron 6-3 6-2.
Alexander Zverev chalked up a century of match wins at Masters 1000 events with his 6-3 7-6 (7-5) win over Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur, while world No.5 Stefanos Tsitsipas battled back from a set down to beat Russian Karen Khachanov 4-6 6-0 6-3.