Tennis world in frenzy over Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka news

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Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, pictured here at the Italian Open.
Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka will do battle for the 26th time in their storied careers. Image: Getty

Stan Wawrinka has set up a blockbuster clash with Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open in a match-up between veterans that tennis fans thought we might never see again.

Wawrinka prevailed in an epic battle with Laslo Djere on Wednesday, winning 7-6 (10-8) 3-6 6-4 to advance to the third round.

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It was the Swiss veteran's second win in the last 15 months after battling back from two surgeries on a foot injury.

The fighting win came after he beat American 14th seed Reilly Opelka in the first round 3-6 7-5 6-2 in his first match since the Australian Open in 2021.

The 37-year-old, who last won a major at the 2016 US Open, said he was motivated by the fans to fight his way back on the ATP tour when he could have easily retired.

"This is exactly the reason I've been practicing and doing the rehab for more than a year," the three-time grand slam champion said.

"At my age, after all I've done in my career, to get the chance to play in front of the fans is why I'm still playing."

Wawrinka will now face World No.1 Djokovic in the third round in what will be the 26th meeting between the pair.

Djokovic holds a 19-6 head-to-head advantage over Wawrinka, but the Swiss veteran has won their last two meetings - including the 2016 US Open final.

Wawrinka also famously beat Djokovic in the French Open final in 2015.

Fans took to social media in a frenzy over the prospect of seeing Djokovic and Wawrinka do battle, possibly for the last time.

Rafa Nadal bounces back from Carlos Alcaraz loss

Rafa Nadal earlier advanced to the third round with a 6-3 6-1 win over John Isner, bouncing back from his loss to 19-year-old phenom Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid last week.

In 21 years as a professional player, Nadal has never lost consecutive matches on clay and the 21-time grand slam champion extended that perfect record on Wednesday.

After a first-round bye, Nadal improved to 44-0 in matches on his favourite surface following a loss.

Perhaps more importantly, Nadal regained some confidence as he works his way back from a rib fracture that kept him out for six weeks before returning at the Madrid Open.

Rafa Nadal, pictured here after his win over John Isner at the Italian Open.
Rafa Nadal celebrates his win over John Isner at the Italian Open. (Photo by Antonietta Baldassarre/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images)

While he would clearly love to add to his record total of 10 Italian Open titles, his bigger objective is regaining his top form in time for the French Open, which starts on May 22.

Nadal has won 13 of his 21 grand slam titles at Roland Garros.

When the match finished, Nadal headed straight to the practice court to hit more balls.

He explained that he's a "bit in a rush" to find his best form as soon as possible.

"I need to work as much as I can," he said. "The match today was not that demanding physically."

Up next for Nadal is Denis Shapovalov, the man he beat at the same stage last year in a gruelling three-set comeback victory in which the Spaniard saved two match points.

"Super lucky," Nadal said about the match last year. "I know how dangerous he is. I need to play better than today."

Second-seeded Alexander Zverev, who was routed by Alcaraz in the Madrid final on Sunday, beat Sebastian Baez 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 and will now play Australian Alex de Minaur - who beat Tommy Paul 7-5 6-4.

Stefanos Tsitsipas had to dig deep, saving two match points before he got past Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7-4).

with AAP

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