World number one and undisputed clay king Rafael Nadal survived a scare on Wednesday at the clay Rome Masters as he overcame a sloppy start to beat Italian qualifier Paolo Lorenzi 6-7, 6-4, 6-0.
But there were no such difficulties for man of the moment Novak Djokovic who took his winning streak this year to 33 matches with an embarrassingly one-sided 6-0, 6-3 destruction of Pole Lukasz Kubot.
Following his defeat to Djokovic in the Madrid final last week which ended a 37-match winning streak, the 24-year-old Nadal came close to losing a second successive match on clay for the first time in his career before eventually romping home in the deciding set. The out-of-sorts Spaniard had to fight back from a set down before reeling off the last eight games to retain his record.Djokovic’s victory edged him closer to American John McEnroe’s 27-year-old record of a 42-match winning start to a season. The tie was never in any doubt and Kubot never looked like improving on his two previous straight set defeats to the Serbian 23-year-old.
“I played quite well but I was playing an opponent who made a lot of mistakes,” he said.
Djokovic will play Stanislas Wawrinka next after the Swiss 14th seed beat Italian wild card Filippo Volandri 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 earlier on Wednesday and can overtake Nadal as world number one this week if he wins the title and Nadal fails to reach the semis.