Mouth-watering quarter-finals set for Friday at Foro Italico

No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova against Victoria Azarenka and four-time champion Novak Djokovic versus world No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro are just two of the scintillating quarter-finals scheduled for Friday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Pliskova and Azarenka, two former No. 1 players, will meet for the eighth time on Court Pietrangeli. The Belarusian leads their head-to-head record 4-3 and won their most recent encounter in Stuttgart last month.

Court Centrale will see an all-Spanish affair when defending champion Rafael Nadal takes on veteran Fernando Verdasco. The world No. 2 was in ruthless form on Thursday, dropping just two games in his two matches, while his opponent had to work slightly harder, advancing to the last eight on the back of two three-set victories.

The winner of that match will play No. 8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals. The Greek player advanced to the last four after his quarter-final opponent, Roger Federer, gave a walkover due to a right leg injury.

The night session will feature a battle of qualifiers with Kristina Mladenovic taking on Maria Sakkari, before top seed Djokovic, who lifted the title in Madrid last week, takes on Argentina’s del Potro.

“It’s going to be a great challenge. We had battles throughout our careers, last one in US Open finals. I love him really as a person. He’s a lovely guy, really nice guy. We get along very well. I respect him a lot as a player,” said Djokovic.

Friday’s Grandstand schedule features another Argentine player in Diego Schwartzman, who’s looking to find a way past No. 6 seed Kei Nishikori and reach his first Masters 1000 semi-final, and Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova, who ended Simona Halep’s Italian Open hopes on Thursday, against Johanna Konta, who enjoyed impressive wins of her own when overcoming Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams.

The winner of the match between Vondrousova and Konta will face No. 6 seed Kiki Bertens in Saturday’s semi-finals, Bertens having progressed when world No. 1 Naomi Osaka withdrew ahead of their quarter-final match with a right hand injury.