Italian Open 2021: 3 things that stood out in Novak Djokovic's win over Taylor Fritz

Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open
Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open
Subhadeep Roy

World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic beat Taylor Fritz 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) on Tuesday to advance to the Round of 16 of the Italian Open. Djokovic, a five-time champion in Rome, finished the match in an hour and 39 minutes even as the end of the match was delayed by a heavy downpour.

On that note, here's a look at three things that stood out in the second-round encounter:

#1 Novak Djokovic started the match with a bang, but Taylor Fritz fought back

Novak Djokovic started the match very strongly, and ran up a 3-0 lead in almost no time. He broke Fritz's serve easily and struck a series of winners off both wings, barely breaking a sweat while winning the first three games of the match.

Djokovic employed the drop shot frequently to drag Fritz to the net, before lobbing the ball over the American's head to leave him stranded. He also played the backhand slice on occasion to change the tempo of the rally.

Fritz, on the other hand, looked error-prone and out of touch at the beginning. However, he gradually eased his way into the match once he stopped trying to overpower the Serb.

By the middle of the first set Fritz started imparting more topspin and margin into his shots, and that helped him win three of the last six games.

#2 Taylor Fritz hit his groundstrokes well, but his serve left a lot to be desired

Taylor Fritz hits a backhand against Novak Djokovic
Taylor Fritz hits a backhand against Novak Djokovic

Taylor Fritz eventually managed to find the right balance between aggression and control with his groundstrokes, which gave Novak Djokovic plenty to think about. Fritz held his own in the backhand crosscourt exchanges, and started playing down-the-line drives more often to catch Djokovic by surprise.

Fritz served big too, but his first serve wasn't accurate enough. He had a first-serve percentage of 56% in the first set, which dipped to 49% in the second. That allowed Djokovic, the greatest returner of all time, to hit quite a few returns with pace and depth.

#3 It was a close contest in the 2nd set, but Novak Djokovic's experience helped him prevail

Novak Djokovic hits a serve
Novak Djokovic hits a serve

The second set started in the worst possible way for Taylor Fritz, as he was broken to love in the very first game. But the American broke back with some strong returns in the fourth game, to level the set at 2-2.

Djokovic then broke again and even served for the match at 5-3, but Fritz restored parity by breaking back right in the nick of time. There was an interruption in the match at that point, with the score level at 5-5 in the second set.

After the resumption Djokovic started looking for sharper angles in order to make Fritz move from side to side, but the 23-year-old exhibited good defensive skills to stay afloat. Fritz hit 19 winners in the second set, and his crosscourt forehand repeatedly tested Djokovic’s defence.

However, the American ended up committing a few too many unforced errors in the all-important tiebreaker. Djokovic by contrast kept his cool, and that was all he needed to do to wrap up the match in straight sets.

Edited by Musab Abid
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