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Djokovic Makes Solid Start In Rome

Novak Djokovic opened his bid for a fifth Internazionali BNL d'Italia trophy on Wednesday, beating Salvatore Caruso 6-3, 6-2 to reach the third round.

Competing for the first time on clay since his semi-final loss to Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros last year, the World No. 1 improved as the match progressed to record his 51st victory in 60 matches at the ATP Masters 1000 event. In terms of matches won, Djokovic is the second most successful player in tournament history. Only nine-time winner Rafael Nadal, who meets Pablo Carreno Busta later in the day, owns more victories in the Italian capital (61).

"It was a very good test for me. I'm very pleased with the way I handled myself in important moments,” said Djokovic. “I was in control of the match. Served well when I needed to come up with a big serve and moved well. I constructed the points as the clay courts demand, because it's obviously completely different surface in terms of building the point tactically. Everything went well. I'm very pleased.”

Djokovic has now won 27 of his 28 matches this year. The Serbian owns a tour-leading three trophies this year, having already triumphed at the Australian Open, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and Western & Southern Open in 2020.

[TENNIS RADIO]

The 33-year-old, who tied Pete Sampras’ tally of 286 weeks as the No. 1 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday, is aiming to lift a record 36th Masters 1000 crown this week. Djokovic currently shares the record with fellow 35-time Masters 1000 champion Nadal.

Djokovic will continue his quest for a fifth Rome title against Marco Cecchinato or Filip Krajinovic. The 6’2” right-hander is tied at 1-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Cecchinato and retired during his only previous meeting against Krajinovic.

"[If I play Marco], obviously it will be a very good test for me… He's a clay court specialist. He's someone that made his best results in his career on this surface and [is] just a very, very tricky opponent,” said Djokovic. “He just knows how to play on this surface very well. But I look forward to it. You know, there will be a good chance for me to try to win against him on clay.

"On the other side, we have Krajinovic, as well, [he] is in good form. I haven't played against him since the first time we played in Belgrade… I retired [from] that match after a set. So I look forward to that, also. I'm very glad that Filip is doing well with the new coach, Janko Tipsarevic. Filip is someone that I [have been] very close to for many years. I was trying to kind of mentor him in the past seven, eight years. I'm just very, very pleased that he's doing well.”

After failing to convert two break points at 3-2 in the first set, the Belgrade native broke serve for the first time two games later. Djokovic retuned with consistent depth to rush his opponent, who committed a series of errors from the baseline.

In the second set, Djokovic raised his level to earn two further service breaks en route to his second victory in as many ATP Head2Head matches against Caruso. The four-time champion dictated play with his forehand to break serve in an 11-minute game at 1-1 and closed out the match with back-to-back love service holds.



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