Djokovic Brushes Past Karatsev In Rome Opener

Serbian to face Djere or Wawrinka in third round

Novak Djokovic’s bid to retain his World No. 1 status enjoyed a solid start on Tuesday at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, as the five-time champion brushed past Aslan Karatsev, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round at the ATP Masters 1000 event.

The top seed must reach the semi-finals to prevent Daniil Medvedev from taking his spot at the top of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday, and the Serbian’s all-round performance against Karatsev represented an impressive start to that mission. Djokovic’s return game was at its relentless best as he broke the World No. 35’s serve four times on his way to a comfortable win on centre court.

Djokovic was delighted with the way he countered the Karatsev threat. “When you see him, physically, [he is] a very strong guy,” Djokovic said after the match. “You never know with him. If he’s feeling the ball, he can be very dangerous because he stays so close to the line, puts pressure on his opponents.

“He was missing a lot of balls today though. He gave me a couple of breaks there in the first and second sets, but I’ll take this win for sure. It’s a straight-sets win against a quality opponent and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”

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Djokovic’s unrivalled movement was on full display as he clinched an entertaining rally at 5-3, 15/0 in the first set, the sort of point the Rome fans have been accustomed to seeing from the Serbian at a tournament where he now holds a 60-10 match record.

“You always hope you can play some exciting and attractive points, and that you can come out as the winner of those points and celebrate with the crowd, obviously,” Djokovic said. “That’s what the crowd is looking for. Energy, excitement, fight, and they want to see some good tennis.

“We had some nice points today. It’s always good to play in the Colosseum of tennis, and this stadium certainly is.”

Karatsev had beaten Djokovic in his hometown of Belgrade in the pair’s sole previous meeting on clay at the 2021 Serbia Open. The World No. 35 dropped his opening service game at the Foro Italico but broke back immediately, a demonstration of the threat his high-powered game can pose. The three-time ATP Tour titlist could not hold off Djokovic for long, however, as the Serbian broke again in the eighth game on his way to the opening set.

The second set was more straightforward for Djokovic, who surged to a 4-0 lead as Karatsev struggled to make any real impact against his accurate delivery. The Serbian had no issues serving out to complete victory in 91 minutes and move into a 2-1 ATP Head2Head series lead over Karatsev.

Prior to the match Djokovic spoke of the physical improvements he felt during his run to the semi-finals at last week’s Mutua Madrid Open after a difficult start to 2022. Although the quickfire nature of his victory meant the 37-time Masters 1000 champion’s stamina was not severely tested against Karatsev, his outstanding defensive game appeared back to its imperious best.

Djokovic will look to maintain that form for his third-round clash against fellow Serbian Laslo Djere or former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, as he chases a maiden title for 2022 in the Italian capital.

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