World no. 1 and four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic reached the third round at Foro Italico, beating Salvatore Caruso 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 24 minutes. It was the 28th victory of the season from 29 encounters for the Serb, bouncing back after the first default in a career in New York.
Novak lost seven points in five service games in the opening set to settle into a fine rhythm, facing no break points and stealing Caruso's serve once for a 6-3. The Italian netted a forehand in the first game, holding at 15 in game two with a service winner to level the score at 1-1 and put himself on the scoreboard.
Djokovic held after two deuces with an unreturned serve for 2-1, followed by Caruso's backhand winner that kept him on the positive side. Novak sprayed two forehand errors in the sixth game to waste break opportunities, holding at 15 with a service winner in the next one and delivering a break at 30 following a forehand error from Salvatore to forge a 5-3 advantage.
Serving for the set, the Serb landed a forehand winner in game nine to wrap up the first part of the encounter in 39 minutes, hoping for more of the same in set number two. Caruso landed an ace down the T line at the beginning of the second set for a hold after deuce, having to work much harder at 1-1 and cracking under pressure to push Djokovic in front.
Novak earned four break chances, converting the last one with a forehand winner to seal the game after almost 12 minutes. World no. 1 confirmed the break, and they both held at love in games five and six. Salvatore netted a backhand to hand another break for Djokovic, who sealed the deal in the eighth game to advance into the last 16.
Asked about the US Open, Novak said he didn't feel comfortable for the next four or five days, thinking about the incident but leaving it behind once he stepped on the clay and started practice sessions ahead of Rome.
Novak Djokovic feels positive vibes again after the US Open setback.
"The winning start in Rome can't bring back my happiness; I'm drawing positive feelings from outside the world of tennis as well, and they are not related to my wins or losses.
I never did anything like that New York incident before, and I had some ups and downs mentally for the next four or five days. After that, I started to practice on clay in Rome and already felt better, waiting for the first match at Foro Italico and positive energy.
I felt comfortable playing against Caruso; it was a good test for me. I controlled the scoreboard, and I'm pleased with the way I played in the crucial moments. My serve worked well, and the movement was on a high level. Everything went well, and I'm pleased.
Salvatore is a tricky opponent on clay, and I had to deserve the win. I had to step in, which I did. Pablo Carreno Busta and I didn't finish that US Open match, but I don't consider myself unbeaten. I don't pay attention to that anymore, looking forward to the challenges on clay in Rome and Paris," Novak Djokovic said.