Rome, May 14 (IANS) Six-time champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia overcame a second-set slump to defeat Grigor Dimitrov in the third round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Italian Open) here on Sunday.
Djokovic came up with a high-class third-set showing to win the match 6-3, 4-6, 6-1
The top seed and defending champion Djokovic won the first set easily and looked set for a routine third-round victory when he led Dimitrov by a set and a break at 6-3, 4-2.
An inspired run of four games from the Bulgarian Dimitrov gave him the second set and forced a decider at the Foro Italico. However, Djokovic expertly raised his level to reach the fourth round with his 1050th tour-level victory.
With his two-hour, 20-minute win, Djokovic improved to 11-1 in his ATP head-to-head series against Dimitrov. The 35-year-old will next take on 13th seed Cameron Norrie or Marton Fucsovics as he bids to reach the quarter-finals for the 17th time in as many appearances in Rome.
Djokovic made a sluggish start for the second match in a row at the clay-court ATP Masters 1000 and he was broken to love in the first game by the 26th seed Dimitrov. However, just as he did against Tomas Martin Etcheverry in his opening match, the Serbian responded in style. He reeled off four games in a row en route to a first set in which he made just three unforced errors.
Despite letting slip his dominant position in the second set, the decider saw Djokovic return to the sort of level that he has frequently shown in Rome across his career. Striking cleanly off both wings and offering a few short balls for Dimitrov to attack, he broke the Bulgarian’s serve three times to complete his win and improve to 66-10 in the Italian capital.