Fixture: (1) Novak Djokovic vs Taylor Fritz
Date: 11 May 2021
Tournament: Internazionali BNL d'italia 2021
Round: Second round (Round of 32)
Venue: Rome, Italy
Category: ATP Masters 1000
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €2,082,960
Match timing: Approx. 2 pm local time, 5.30 pm
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Novak Djokovic vs Taylor Fritz preview
After a disappointing start to the clay season, Novak Djokovic will be hoping to right the ship at this week's Italian Open - where he is the defending champion.
The World No. 1 returned to the tour at the Monte Carlo Masters following a two-month sabbatical, but surpirsingly bowed out in the third round against Dan Evans. Djokovic also lost in the semifinals in Belgrade last month against Aslan Karatsev.
The 33-year-old then withdrew from the Madrid Open, subsequently dropping 500 ranking points.
Djokovic will now be looking to play himself into form and fitness ahead of Roland Garros as he takes on Taylor Fritz in the second round of the Italian Open.
Fritz has been a mainstay on the ATP tour for a while now, and has been threatening to break through at the highest level over the last couple of years. However, clay is without a doubt his least favorite surface.
The American reached the semifinals in Doha earlier this season, but has amassed just two claycourt match wins while playing in Cagliari, Monte Carlo and Madrid. That said, Fritz did register a confidence-boosting 6-3, 6-2 win over World No. 26 Dan Evans in the Rome first round on Monday.
Novak Djokovic vs Taylor Fritz head-to-head
The second-round encounter in Rome is the fourth match between the two players, and Novak Djokovic currently leads the head-to-head 3-0 over Taylor Fritz.
The pair's most recent encounter was at the 2021 Australian Open, where Djokovic dropped a two-set lead and sustained an abdominal injury before taking the match in five sets. Prior to that, both of the Serb's wins over Fritz came on clay - at the Madrid Masters and the Monte Carlo Masters in 2019.
Novak Djokovic vs Taylor Fritz prediction
Despite being relatively rusty, Novak Djokovic's ranking and previous history at this tournament make him the overwhelming favorite for this encounter.
The 33-year-old looked in great form at the Serbia Open prior to the semifinal, where some wasted opportunities and untimely errors eventually cost him the match. That said, Djokovic's impeccable defensive skills and well-rounded game have always fared well in Rome, where he is a five-time champion.
Taylor Fritz's back-to-back straight-sets losses on clay against the Serb will not give him much confidence for this match, nor will his inability to get past a clearly injured Djokovic at the Australian Open this year.
Fritz's strengths are mainly his big serve and forehand, and he can also mix things up with the occasional net approach. But if Djokovic keeps his error count low and builds on the progress he made in Belgrade, he should not have much trouble against the American.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in straight sets.