Djokovic battles through to Rome quarter-finals
ROME (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic had to fight back from a set down to beat Thomaz Bellucci and reach the Italian Open quarter-finals on Thursday while Rafa Nadal produced an "almost perfect" display to despatch John Isner.
World number one Djokovic won 5-7 6-2 6-3 but was made to work hard after his Brazilian opponent, ranked 68th, played a flawless opening set with his left-handed serve and powerful forehand repeatedly troubled the holder.
"He (Bellucci) kept me off balance with the variety on his serve," Djokovic said. "I couldn't quite find the right position where to stand on the return."
Once the Serb broke in the fourth game of the second set he relaxed and took control, running Bellucci all over the court with precise ground strokes and impeccable backhand drop shots.
"It was a hard-fought match and I have to give him credit for the way he played," added Djokovic.
He next meets Japan's fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who beat Djokovic's compatriot Victor Troicki 6-4 6-3.
Fourth seed Nadal, who has struggled to find his best form this season in the wake of the wrist injury and appendicitis issues that undermined his performances last year, was imperious against the big-serving American and triumphed 6-4 6-4.
He did not face a single break point and won 90 percent of his first-service points.