Second seed Novak Djokovic take on unseeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the Men's singles third round of 2017 Rome Masters on Thursday.
The world number two, in his second week without a coaching team, opened his campaign in Rome with a 7-6, 6-2 win over British number three Aljaz Bedene, who kept the pressure on the Serb in the first set. However, Djokovic buckled up and never looked back after he won a one-sided first set tie-breaker.
On the other hand, Bautista Agut came back from behind after dropping a closely-fought tie-breaker to edge past compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7, 6-1, 3-4.
Djokovic was among the fiercest critics of the court conditions in Rome yesterday. Despite clinching a straight sets victory over his second-round opponent, the Serb expressed concerns about the quality of clay as he felt that the surface was not fine-tuned for the big Masters 1000 tournament.
With a quarter-final meeting against either seventh seed Kei Nishikori or familiar foe Juan Martin del Potro awaiting him, Djokovic would look to have another short and easy outing on Thursday. A 6-2 record on the dirt so far does not inspire confidence ahead of his French Open title defence, but the Serb has continued to improve ever since he bowed out in the quarter-final of Monte Carlo Masters.
A good run in Rome will boost Djokovic's confidence ahead of his Paris trip and the four-time winner will start as favourite against Bautista Agut, who has not managed to beat the Serb even once in six meetings, which includes two loses on clay.
While Bautista Agut started his season with a title in Chennai and R16 appearance in Australian Open, the Spaniard has struggled on clay court (6-4 this season) and is unlikely to trouble Djokovic today.