Novak Djokovic’s love affair with Rome continued as the five-time champion took his 60th win at the Italian Open on Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-2 success over Aslan Karatsev.
The Serb has never lost to the quarter-finals of the tournament and is now just three wins away from joining the club with 1,000 wins.
“He probably has the biggest calf we have in tennis. Very strong guy, just solid from the baseline,” Djokovic said of 35th-ranked Karatsev.
“You never know with him. If he feels the ball, he can be very dangerous because he stays so close to the line and puts pressure on his opponents.”
Karatsev made 36 unforced errors during the match and Djokovic made sure that those errors were cashed in.
“However, he missed a lot of points today, and gave me a few breaks in the first and second rounds there.
“I will definitely take this win. It’s a straight-sets win against a good opponent and I’m looking forward to the next challenge,” the Serb continued.
Djokovic, who is in his record-extending 369th week as the world number one, must reach at least the semi-finals in Rome to maintain his top spot and avoid being overtaken by Daniil Medvedev.
In the last 16, Djokovic will face compatriot Laslo Djere or triple grand champion Stan Wawrinka.
Djokovic started with a service break en route to a 2-0 lead, but Karatsev cleared his deficit in no time to equalize.
The leading group mounted the pressure to break again in the eighth game and closed the set in style, showing off his volley skills in front of an exuberant Roman crowd.
Djokovic raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set and sealed the 90-minute win on his first chance, before improving to 2-1 in his head-to-head clash with Karatsev.
– Dimitrov takes on Tsitsipas –
Grigor Dimitrov and Stefanos Tsitsipas will face it for the second time in seven days after the Bulgarian passed US qualifier Brandon Nakashima 6-3, 6-4 in the first round on Tuesday.
It was Dimitrov’s 10th Masters 1000 match win of the season and he will be looking for just a second win over Tsitsipas in their sixth career encounter against each other.
Argentinian Diego Schwartzman saved two match points and recovered from a 15-point loss during his clash with the in-form Miomir Kecmanovic before taking his ticket to the second round 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3 ) result. The 12th seed will then face lucky loser Marcos Giron.
British ninth seed Cameron Norrie saved 4/4 breakpoints in his 6-4, 6-4 success over local wildcard Luca Nardi and will go on to play former US Open champion Marin Cilic.
In the women’s tournament, Madrid finalist Jessica Pegula enjoyed a winning start to her campaign, passing world No. 25 Liudmila Samsonova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the second round.
Runner-up to Ons Jabeur in the Spanish capital on Saturday, Pegula withstood 38 winners from great batter Samsonova to set up a final 32 showdown against in-form Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina.
Thirteenth-seeded Pegula, who played with a severely cramped left thigh against Samsonova, reached the quarter-finals in Rome last season and has improved her 2022 win-loss score to 18-9.
Former French Open champion and No. 11 seeded Jelena Ostapenko was boxed in 6-2, 6-3 by US qualifier Lauren Davis in just an hour and 10 minutes.
American No. 32 in the world Amanda Anisimova, a former Roland Garros semifinalist, will face Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in the next round after recovering from a bagel in the second set to beat Czech qualifier Tereza Martincova with 6-2, 0-6, 6-4.
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