Fired-up Djokovic downs Lopez to reach Madrid quarter-finals
Novak Djokovic looked much more like his former self as the defending champion beat Feliciano Lopez in straight sets to move into the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open.
The 12-time grand slam champion made hard work of defeating Nicolas Almagro on Wednesday in his first match since parting company with his long-time coaching staff.
A fired-up Djokovic was far more convincing a day later on Estadio Manolo Santana, winning a high quality third-round match 6-4 7-5 to seal a first straight-sets win of the clay season and book a last-eight encounter with Kei Nishikori.
Djokovic, who has refused to rule out appointing Andre Agassi as coach, prowled around the court and had the bit between his teeth as he stayed in the hunt for only a second title of the year with the French Open on the horizon.
The two players served up a treat for an expectant crowd following a delayed start due to rain and Djokovic had to be patient, with Lopez raising his game in his homeland.
The world number two won a bizarre point at 5-4 up when he stopped briefly to check the mark on the court as he thought a Lopez shot had landed long, but still looped a return tamely over the net to leave the Spaniard flat-footed and confused.
Djokovic went a set to the good when Lopez fired a forehand long and saved the only break point he faced in the match in the opening game of the second.
The two continued to play a game of cat and mouse, adapting their approach to contend with heavy conditions, Lopez proving commanding on serve to keep the French Open champion waiting for a chance to break.
Djokovic was punching the air after racing in to swoop for an incredible cross-court backhand winner, prompting applause from his stunned opponent, and the pressure told on Lopez when he netted a forehand to bow out when serving to stay in the tournament.