Novak Djokovic stormed into the third round of the Italian Open on Friday, defeating Tomas Etcheverry 7-5 (7/6), 6-2 in a surprisingly tight match.
A six-time winner in Rome, Djokovic was put to work by the Argentine, winning in one hour, 51 minutes to set up a third-round clash with Grigor Dimitrov who defeated Stan Wawrinka earlier in the day. .
Djokovic has not been knocked out in an ATP tour event at the first attempt since last year’s Monte Carlo Masters, just his second tournament last season after he refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Still suffering from an injury to his right elbow he had to overcome Etcheverry, who won the first set with a tie-break before securing a place in the next round.
“I said before that this surface needs more time for me than maybe for other players to get myself to a good level, to move well and hit the ball. said in Italian to Sky Sport.
“This is my favorite clay tournament, there is an amazing atmosphere in the center court and the consistency I have had in the past years gives me a lot of belief.”
Djokovic, 35, has made 12 finals in Rome and said on Thursday that he was feeling good ahead of the tournament despite missing the Madrid Masters last week.
Wearing an elbow brace, he got off to a slow start, dropping his serve in the first game and struggling to deal with the Argentine’s powerful shots.
The first set hinged on a scrappy game six, with Djokovic breaking to level the scores after a battle at deuce.
From there, the set went together on serve until Djokovic won the last four tie-break points to take the lead.
Djokovic then stepped up a notch, breaking serve in the first and seventh games of the second set to give the match a more direct look than Etcheverry’s performance deserved.
– Perfect Swiatek –
Iga Swiatek began her quest to win a third consecutive Italian Open title in perfect fashion, not dropping a game in her straight-set defeat of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
World number one Swiatek demolished Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 6-0 in just over an hour to reach the third round.
Defeated in the finalist in Madrid last week, Swiatek looked impressive in the tournament he won last year before winning the French Open despite shaking off a rib injury suffered in Indian Wells.
“I still might feel some discomfort, but it is really, really low. Even when I withdrew in Miami, the pain was minimal. It was just the risk of getting it worse that stops me,” Swiatek told the reporter.
Swiatek faces Lesia Tsurenko in the last 32 after extending her winning streak in the Italian capital to 12 games.
Last year’s losing finalist, seed Ons Jabeur was defeated by Paula Badosa, 6-1, 6-4.
Jabeur joins world number two Aryna Sabalenka, third-ranked Jessica Pegula and 2019 winner Karolina Pliskova who were eliminated in the second round.
The 28-year-old has had calf problems in recent weeks, an injury which saw him retire in the semi-finals in Stuttgart and miss out on defending his title in Madrid.
Badosa will face world number 27 Marta Kostyuk in the third round.
Earlier, Jannick Sinner entered the men’s last 32 with a straight-sets victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis, 6-1, 6-4.
World number eight Sinner took one hour, 18 minutes to face Australian qualifier Kokkinakis, and will face Russian Alexander Shevchenko, who defeated Argentine Sebastian Baez, 6-3, 6-4.
Roma have not seen an Italian win the tournament since Adriano Panatta in 1976, and the Sinner has had a decent season, winning in Montpellier in February and losing in the finals in Miami and Rotterdam to Daniil Medvedev.
He also reached the semi-finals of Indian Wells, losing to eventual winner Carlos Alcaraz.
Briton Cameron Norrie cruised past French qualifier Alexandre Muller 6-2, 6-3 to face Marton Fucsovics in the next round after the Hungarian defeated Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4.