ROME, May 14 — Daniil Medvedev continued his Rome title defence with yesterday’s hard-fought 7-6 (7/5), 2-6, 7-5 win over qualifier Hamad Medjedovic as the men’s tournament was left wide open by big-name exits, the latest being fourth seed Andrey Rublev.

Russian Medvedev will face Tommy Paul in the last 16 at the Foro Italico today after battling past Next Gen champion Medjedovic in a gruelling clash of big hitters.

The second seed has a great opportunity to win his first tournament of the year but will be drained by a match which pushed three hours in length and suggested that 20-year-old Medjedovic is a far superior player than his world ranking of 121.

“I’m not really pleased. I felt like I started the match well and then in a way it was only going downhill,” said Medvedev.

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“I’m happy that by not playing my best I could win and tomorrow I’m going to try to find my best tennis.”

Rome is missing the world’s top three men following Novak Djokovic’s third-round elimination on Saturday, with Italian world number two Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz both withdrawing ahead of the event.

And Russian Rublev, fresh from claiming the Madrid title, suffered a shock third-round defeat by French qualifier Alexandre Muller, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

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Sixth seed and reigning Monte Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas is still in the fray after beating Briton Cameron Norrie in straight sets 6-2, 7-6 (7/1) but is concerned at the impact of a punishing schedule on the top players.

“The extension of the days in the Masters 1000s I think plays a massive role and contributes a lot to the fact that these players are getting injured,” Tsitsipas told reporters.

Another contender is Rafael Nadal’s vanquisher and seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz, who faces Sebastian Baez today and could be Medvedev’s quarter-final opponent.

No Sabalenka handshake

Elina Svitolina again refused to shake hands with Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka after losing their first meeting since their row at the 2023 French Open.

Belarusian second seed Sabalenka came back from a set down to win 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (9/7) to beat Ukrainian Svitolina, who following their quarter-final at Roland Garros last year accused Sabalenka of inflaming tensions surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war by insisting on a handshake that was not going to come.

Ukrainian players have refused to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian rivals in protest at the ongoing war and Svitolina again walked straight to her chair after the match.

Sabalenka will face world number 10 Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals after squeezing past two-time Rome winner Svitolina in a brilliant match for those who stayed late in the centre court stands.

The 26-year-old, who has never won in Rome but is a two-time champion on the Madrid clay, has a chance to match her 2022 run to the last four in front of a crowd who were on her side and roared with delight after she won a thrilling time break at the second timw of asking.

Swiatek on course

World number one Iga Swiatek is yet to drop a set after beating Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 and is favourite for a third Rome crown before she begins her French Open title defence later this month.

The three-time Roland Garros champion arrived in the Italian capital off the back of a thrilling triumph in Madrid, her third WTA 1000 title of the season after also winning at Indian Wells and Doha.

But the 22-year-old didn’t have it all her own way against former world number one Kerber, a three-time former Grand Slam champion who at 331st was the lowest-ranked player ever to reach the last 16 in this tournament.

“I’m a perfectionist but it’s impossible to play perfect tennis, so you always have to be humble and not take anything for granted,” said Swiatek.

“The pressure is there for sure but this year has been pretty good for me.”

Swiatek will face Madison Keys whose 6-2, 6-1 win over Sorana Cirstea was suspended for half an hour by a court invasion from climate activists. — AFP