Novak Djokovic will play Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters after both players won in straight sets on Thursday.
The second-ranked Djokovic dropped his serve once in each set but managed to recover to beat Thomaz Bellucci 6-4, 6-4, while Spain’s Verdasco eliminated compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 7-6 (2) to take his record on clay this year to 13-2.
Djokovic will now look to avenge his defeat to Verdasco in the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Masters two weeks ago.
“I’ve played a lot of matches against him on different surfaces and I’ve won most of them,” Djokovic said of his 5-3 career record against Verdasco, adding that the Monte Carlo match “wasn’t a real picture of my game. I didn’t feel good on the court and made a lot of unforced errors.”
Seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also advanced by beating Colombian qualifier Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-4, while Ernests Gulbis followed up his upset win over Roger Federer with a three-set victory over Italian wild card Filippo Volandri, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (4) - fighting off a partisan crowd in the process.
The 21-year-old Gulbis will next meet Spain’s Feliciano Lopez, who advanced when 11th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic appeared to aggravate a muscle problem in his side during the pre-match warm-up.
Against the 28th-ranked Bellucci, Djokovic got in just 57 per cent of his first attempts - although he committed half as many unforced errors as the Brazilian player.
“I was down a break every set and it wasn’t easy to get back on serve,” Djokovic said. “He served well - very accurately - and got a lot of free points.”