Second seed Novak Djokovic takes on local player Feliciano Lopez in the Men's singles R16 match of 2017 Madrid Masters on Thursday.
The defending champion heads into the match after a hard-fought win over unseeded Nicolas Almagro in his opening encounter yesterday. Playing his first match after parting ways with his coaching team, Djokovic started his campaign by claiming the first set 6-1 against the Spaniard, but he was beaten 4-6 in the second and was also broken early in the decider.
However, Djokovic held his composure and took the match 6-1, 4-6, 7-5. On the other hand, Lopez worked his way past Gilles Simon 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 in his R32 clash yesterday.
Djokovic has not had the best of times ever since he won the season-opening title, beating world number one Andy Murray in Doha. He has not reached a semi-final since, exiting Australian Open in the semi-final and facing quarter-final and R16 exits at Acapulco and Indian Wells.
The world number two also suffered a quarter-final exit at Monte Carlo Masters, his first clay tournament of the season, after losing to David Goffin. Having battled injuries and parted ways with his long-time coach Miljan Amanovic, the Serb needs more wins under his belt to hit peak form before he heads to Paris to defend his French Open title.
With a potential quarter-final meeting against sixth seed Kei Nishikori awaiting him, Djokovic would not want another draining battle in today's match. The defending champion though is well-placed to get past Lopez, whom he has beaten eight times in the past, including their only meet on the red dirt at Belgrade in 2011.
Also, 35-year-old Lopez has not had a decent start to his clay season as he has faced second-round exits in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and despite having the home support, the Spaniard will have an uphill task against Djokovic.