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Novak Djokovic vs Nikoloz Basilashvili ATP Rome Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Djokovic seeks back-to-back wins for just the third time this season

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 16 May 2018
  • Novak Djokovic vs Nikoloz Basilashvili is live from Rome on Wednesday, 16 May from 2:00pm local time/ 1:00pm BST
  • Djokovic and Basilashvili meet for the first time
Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Four-time champion, Novak Djokovic looks to build on his first-round victory over Alexandr Dolgopolov at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia when he takes on Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili on Wednesday.

Djokovic is looking to win back-to-back matches for just the third time in what has been a troubled season. The Serbian has shown glimpses of a return to form in recent weeks, particularly in Monte Carlo, where he defeated Dusan Lajovic and Borna Coric before pushing Dominic Thiem to three sets, but he can’t seem to get any sort of momentum going at the moment, as anytime he gets a good win, he follows it up with a defeat that makes one wonder if he is ever going to rediscover the form and the consistency that made him untouchable on top of the world just a few years ago.

It was just over a year ago that Djokovic split with his long-time coach, Marian Vajda, opting for Andre Agassi in his stead, but after a largely unsuccessful experiment, which also saw the Serbian curiously bring on Radek Stepanek, the former world number one has gone back to basics, and re-united with Vajda.

After missing the latter half of last season with an elbow injury, Djokovic returned to the tour at the Australian Open, where he reached the fourth round before falling to Korean young gun, Hyeon Chung. The Serbian then underwent minor surgery on the elbow that had been disturbing him; but returned in time to play Indian Wells. Djokovic lost back-to-back opening matches at Indian Wells and Miami; but he showed semblance of his old self on the clay of Monte Carlo, beating Lajovic and Coric before falling to Thiem. He was seemingly on his way back to form, but optimism tumbled again as he fell to Martin Klizan in the opening round in Barcelona. The rollercoaster continued in Madrid where he raised hopes with a first-round win over Nishikori, but those hopes were diffused once again by a second-round loss to Kyle Edmund in the Spanish capital. 

Like I said earlier, he has hinted at a return to form, but he has not just been able to get any sort of run going. He has looked particularly vulnerable in tight matches, an obvious sign of shaky confidence, which stems from the fact that he hasn’t played and won many matches over the last year. Perhaps, all he needs is one good tournament to set him off again; and given his love affair with Rome over the year, this could be the venue where it all comes together once again for the former world No. 1.

“I always feel very comfortable in Rome. I think the conditions are quite suitable to my game," Djokovic said. "I always look forward to coming back to Rome."

Djokovic is a four-time champion in Rome, and he has contested the final in each of the last four seasons, winning the title in 2014 and 2015, and finishing runner-up in 2016 and 2017. He looked very much at home in the opening round, where he dismissed the dangerous Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3 6-1. Djokovic was largely untroubled through the match, suffocating Ukrainian with his movement, and impeccable length on return and off the ground. He has had this sort of performances over the last few weeks, only to follow it up with a disappointing loss. Can he do it all over again when he takes on Basilashvili in the second round?

Making his debut in Rome, Basilashvili has fought through three tough matches from the qualifying rounds to earn this shot at Djokovic. The Georgian needed three sets to get past Marius Copil and Julien Benneteau in the qualifying rounds, before being dragged to three once again by local favourite, Filippo Baldi in the opening round of the main draw. 

Currently ranked 74th in the world, Basilashvili first broke into the top 100 in October 2016, and a steady start to 2017, featuring a first career final in Memphis and a semi-final in Sofia had pushed him into the top 60 by February. Basilashvili had long spells of poor results, like the four-match losing streak between his Roland Garros exit and Antalya, the five-match losing streak between his Wimbledon ouster and Montreal, and the four straight losses to end the year, but he buffered those spells (ranking wise, that is) with the odd decent run. The 26-year-old made the semi-finals in Lyon and the third round at Roland Garros; he also reached the Round of 16 in Cincinnati and the semis in Metz, all of which were good enough to keep in in the world’s top 60 at the end of the year.

Moving into 2018, he did well to reach the third round of the Australian Open, but that was followed by one of those winless runs, which spanned New York, Delray Beach, Acapulco and Indian Wells. He snapped the streak in Miami, beating Thomas Fabbiano, but he was stopped in the second round by eventual champion, John Isner. By this time, his ranking was tumbling perilously close to the 100 mark- but a couple of decent results on clay kept his head above water. Basilashvili made quarter finals in Marrakech and Budapest, but then lost consecutive openers in Istanbul and Madrid, before his latest win in Rome. It’s been quite the ride for the Georgian, and wouldn’t it be so typical if he stopped the great Novak Djokovic in the first ever meeting between the pair on Wednesday?

Basilashvili hits the ball hard and aggressive from the back of the court, but it will take some doing to hit through Djokovic. The Georgian must look to stay with him for as long as possible, something Dolgopolov failed to do, maybe then he can exploit any potential nerves on the Serbian’s side. I’m still not perfectly comfortable backing Djokovic, given the events of the last few weeks, but I’m taking a chance on him in Rome, where he possesses an excellent record. If he plays well, he wins this easily. 

Novak Djokovic vs Nikoloz Basilashvili is live from Rome on Wednesday, 16 May from 2:00pm local time/ 1:00pm BST

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Novak Djokovic vs Nikoloz Basilashvili ATP Rome Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Djokovic seeks back-to-back wins for just the third time this season

Novak Djokovic continues his Rome campaign on Wednesday when he takes on Nikoloz Basilashvili. Will Djokovic avoid any troubles against the Bosnian? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match lie online.

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