Karatsev Ousts Harris, Sets Djokovic Clash In Rome

Krajinovic, Cilic and Garin also advance in Italian capital

Digging deep to escape a poor run of form is a crucial part of life on the ATP Tour, and Aslan Karatsev showed he was up for the fight at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Sunday afternoon.

The World No. 34 saved a match point in the deciding set tie-break to defeat Lloyd Harris in the first round of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome and book a second-round clash with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Karatsev’s form has tailed off since he started the year with six straight wins and a third ATP Tour title in Sydney, with the 28-year-old holding a 2-10 record since his run to the third round at the Australian Open.

After splitting the opening two sets the match was settled in a nerve-wracking final-set tie-break, with the big-serving Harris saving a match point at 5/6 before letting slip one of his own at 7/6. Karatsev didn’t miss with his second chance to clinch the match as he edged home to move to 2-0 in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series.

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Filip Krajinovic made an impressive start to his Rome campaign as he took out Estoril finalist Frances Tiafoe with a 7-6(7), 7-6(4) win. The Serbian clinched a dramatic opening set tie-break by converting his third set-point and showed similar resolve in the same situation in the second set to move to 2-0 against the American on clay. Krajinovic also defeated Tiafoe over five sets at Roland Garros in 2019. His next opponent in Rome will be sixth seed Andrey Rublev.

Marin Cilic also advanced to the second round on Sunday as he enjoyed a comfortable win over Italian wild card Matteo Arnaldi. Cilic is a former semi-finalist at the Foro Italico, having reached the final four in 2018 before falling to Alexander Zverev. The Croatian’s experience proved too much for 21-year-old Arnaldi, with Cilic completing a 6-1, 6-4 victory to book a second-round appointment with Luca Nardi or ninth seed Cameron Norrie.

There was also opening-round success for Cristian Garin, who defeated #NextGenATP Italian Francesco Passaro, 6-3, 6-2, to match his best performance in the Italian capital from 2021. Standing between the Chilean and a maiden third-round appearance in Rome will be seventh seed Carlos Alcaraz.

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