World no. 1 and four-time Rome champion Noak Djokovic arrived in the Italian capital with a massive boost after winning Madrid on Sunday, seeking the first title here since 2015. It is so far so good for the 15-time Grand Slam champion after the second round, defeating Denis Shapovalov 6-1, 6-3 in just 66 minutes to book the place in the third round where he will face Philipp Kohlschreiber or Marco Cecchinato later tonight.
This was the 20th win for the Serb in 2020 and 342nd at Masters 1000 level, dominating from start to finish and scoring the second triumph over the young Canadian this year, celebrating in the third round in Melbourne in January as well.
Serving at 80%, Djokovic lost just ten points behind the initial shot, never facing a break point and clinching half of the return points to sail towards the finish line in just over an hour. Struggling on both the first and second serve and never finding the way to impose his shots, Denis faced 13 break points and got broken four times to propel Novak into the next round, notching another early exit on clay this spring after a better run 12 months ago when he was the semi-finalist in Madrid.
Novak finished the encounter with 13 winners and 11 unforced errors, doing everything right on the court and drawing 24 unforced errors from Shapovalov who stood no chance with the mighty rival in the quickest rallies up to four strokes and those between five and eight shots.
Settling into a nice rhythm early on, Novak converted the third break point in the fourth game to move 3-1 up after a double fault from Shapovalov, breaking again at 15 in game six and securing the opener with a hold at love a few minutes later for a 6-1 after 30 minutes.
Battling for every point, the young Canadian fended off the first seven break points in set number two before Djokovic finally converted the eight at 3-3 when Denis sprayed a backhand error, wrapping up the triumph with another break at 5-3 to kick off the title chase in style.