World No. 1 Novak Djokovic acknowledged the first set of his Rome Masters round-of-16 clash against fellow compatriot Filip Krajinovic was one of the longest sets he has ever played. Djokovic, seeded at No. 1, needed 87 minutes to win the first set as Krajinovic put up a huge fight in the opener.
After winning a tight first set, 17-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic had an easier job in the second as he ended up winning the match 7-6 (7) 6-3. Djokovic dropped his serve in the opening game of the match but converted his fourth break point of the second game to level the set at one game apiece.
Djokovic then failed to convert any of his three break point chances in the fourth game but also saved two break points in the seventh game. The first set went into a tie-break after Krajinovic saved one more break point in the eighth game and two set points in the 10th game.
In the tie-break, Krajinovic led 4-1 but failed to capitalize on his lead as Djokovic realized his fifth set point to earn a tight opener. In the second set, Djokovic claimed two breaks and never lost his serve to collect a straight-set win.
Djokovic admitted playing against a close friend was not easy
"It was definitely one of the longest sets I think I have ever played,” Djokovic said, per the ATP website. “Never easy, I think, emotionally to play against someone that is one of my best friends for many years… I think the first set could have gone a different way, as well.
“Fortunately for me it went my way, and that allowed me to swing through the ball a bit more in the second set. Maybe physically and mentally he dropped a level, and I used my opportunities and capitalised to win in straight sets”.
In his first match since the US Open default, Djokovic beat Italian Salvatore Caruso in straight sets. "It was a very good test for me. I'm very pleased with the way I handled myself in important moments,” Djokovic said after beating Caruso.
“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 will battle against Dominik Koepfer for a place in the Rome semifinal.