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Djokovic cruises into Rome Masters quarterfinals

Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns the ball to Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain during their match Thursday in the Rome Masters tennis tournment.
ROME: Second seed Novak Djokovic reached the Rome Masters quarterfinals on Thursday after a 6-4, 6-4 third round win over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.
Djokovic, beaten in the final by Britain’s Andy Murray last year, will now face either Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro or Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori.
Rafael Nadal, enjoying his best season on clay in two years, will look to book his place in the last eight later when he meets American Jack Sock, seeded 13th, on center court.
The Spaniard, a seven-time champion in Rome, swept Djokovic aside in the semifinals of the Madrid Masters last week before going on to secure the title.
Meantime, Italian Fabio Fognini could be hit with sanctions after a foul-mouthed tirade at the chair umpire on his way to another early exit from the Rome Masters on Thursday.
Fognini’s defeat of Britain’s out-of-form defending champion Andy Murray earlier this week raised hopes he could finally make it past the third round for the first time in his career.
But in a 1hr 19min clash that drew whistles from his own fans on center court, the fiery Italian, ranked 29 in the world, was brought crashing back to earth by the clinical game of 20-year-old German prodigy Alexander Zverev.
“You’re f..... arrogant,” Fognini shouted at chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani at the end of a match which saw the Italian smash his racquet on the ground on several occasions and kick a linesman’s chair.
Lahyani, a Swede of Moroccan origin, soaked it all up. He is already popular with tennis watchers following his officiating of the combustible Wimbledon final in 2013 that saw Murray end Britain’s 77-year title drought.
Fognini also labelled him a “clown” and “loudmouth” on his way to crashing out before the business end of the tournament in Rome.
Zverev, the 16th seed who is the youngest player in the ATP top 50, will meet the winner of the clash between Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic, to be played later Thursday.
In the women’s tournament Venus Williams overcame determined Briton Johanna Konta to win their third-round clash 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.
In the absence of sister and defending champion Serena, she will now meet Germany’s Julia Goerges or Spain’s Garbine Muguruza on Friday for a place in the semis and a possible matchup with Czech second seed Karolina Pliskova.
Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, the seventh seed, won’t be going so far after she exited following a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 defeat to Australian qualifier Daria Gavrilova.
Gavrilova will meet the winner of the match between Dutch 15th seed Kiki Bertens and unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova.