Following a strong start to his Italian Open campaign, world No. 2 Novak Djokovic is through to the third round in Rome, where he will Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber for the fifth time on the professional tour. The Serb leads the head-to-head series 3-1, with two consecutive victories in their most recent outings.
While there was much worry regarding Djokovic’s wrist during the opening frames of the contest against Radek Stepanek, the former world No. 1 quickly found his form and recovered from a early break down to defeat his Czech opponent 6-3, 7-5. It was not his most dominant performance, as he twice allowed his break advantage to slip but eventually ended the contest in 1 hour and 37 minutes.
“It was one of the most difficult conditions I’ve played in in my life,” said Djokovic. “Playing when it’s very windy on the court, especially on clay, the clay gets in your eyes. It was very difficult to get any kind of rhythm. Stepanek is a very experienced player, so that’s why I had to be super-focused every game because I knew he had this variety of shots. It was a little bit frustrating when I dropped serve twice in the second set, but the positive is that I managed to stay mentally tough until the end and win.
Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Jerzy Janowicz in the opening round in Rome, before easing into the third round on Tuesday with a win over Tommy Robredo. He has now reached the same stage of the tournament that he did last season, when he withdrew from the tournament ahead of his third round contest against David Ferrer.
This marks the fifth time these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, and it will be interesting to see how this contest plays out and whether Djokovic is indeed fully recovered from his wrist injury. They are tied 1-1 on clay, as Kohlschreiber beat Djokovic on that surface in the 2009 French Open. If Djokovic suffers from a slight drop in confidence due to the worry of injuring his wrist, it may cost him one of the sets tomorrow but not much else.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in Three Sets