After losing that epic Madrid Masters semi-final clash to Carlos Alcaraz, world no. 1 Novak Djokovic is back on the winning way in Rome. Novak defeated Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 30 minutes for a place in the third round.
The Serb celebrated the 60th victory at Foro Italico, and he is the third player with that many wins at a single Masters 1000 event after Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Novak and Aslan struggled to find the first serve, and the better-ranked player made the difference with a rock-solid performance on the second serve.
Djokovic faced two break points and got broken once, keeping the pressure on the other side and seizing four breaks from ten opportunities to control the scoreboard. Karatsev fired 18 winners and twice as many unforced errors to plague his chances for a better result.
Novak Djokovic scored the 60th victory at the Rome Masters.
The Russian stayed in touch in the more advanced rallies, and the Serb forged the victory in the segment of the shortest exchanges up to four strokes. A five-time champion held at 15 in the encounter's opening game with a service winner and grabbed a break in the next one after Karatsev's forehand mistake.
The Russian pulled the break back after a well-constructed attack in game three to get his name on the scoreboard and reduce the deficit. Novak fired a backhand down the line winner to secure the fifth game and open a 3-2 gap.
Aslan closed the sixth game at 15 with an ace down the T line, and Novak responded with a hold at love for 4-3. The Serb placed a deep return in game eight to grab a break and forge a 5-3 advantage. Djokovic brought the ninth game home at 30 for 6-3 in 41 minutes and hoped for more in set number two.
Aslan fired a backhand down the line bullet at the beginning of the second set to save a break point and erased two more. Novak seized the fourth chance after forcing the rival's forehand error to build an early lead and move closer to the finish line.
Djokovic erased a break point in game two and held after deuces for 2-0. World no. 1 broke again in game three to forge a 3-0 gap and fired a forehand crosscourt winner in the next one to extend the lead. Karatsev saved a break point in game five to avoid a bagel before Djokovic grabbed game six with a forehand winner for 5-1. The Serb landed four winners in the eighth game to seal the deal and find himself in the third round.