Tournament favorites Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic rolled in their Rome openers on Wednesday.
Nadal, a 9-time champion, blew away countryman and US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1 in just 73 minutes. In his first match in 200 days, Nadal only lost 8 points on his serve.
“It’s good to be back on the Tour,” said Nadal on court. “I miss the crowds. I played a good match, maybe he was a little bit tired after all his matches in New York. It was a perfect start for me. It was solid, good shots on the forehand and backhand. I didn’t expect to play that well.”
Nadal will have Thursday off as he waits for the Milos Raonic-Dusan Lajovic winner.
Novak Djokovic played his first match since his ignominious default at the US Open. The top-seeded Serb ran through Italian Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-3.
“It was a very good test for me. I’m very pleased with the way I handled myself in important moments,” said Djokovic who is now 27-1 on the year. “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 meet his countryman Filip Krajinovic on Friday.
No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas nearly made a miraculous comeback on Italian teen Jannik Sinner before losing 6-1, 6-7(9), 6-2. The 19-year-old Sinner was up 6-1, 5-2 but let the Greek back in. Tsitsipas eventually saved a flurry of match points before forcing a third. But Sinner was able to regroup to earn his first Top 10 win.
“He is obviously a very experienced player,” said Sinner. “I played against him last year here in Rome. I just wanted to play my game and move better. In the beginning, I was feeling great and I knew it was his first match on clay. When I served for the match, I hit one double fault and the tie-break could have gone either way. I tried to start strongly in the third set.”
Matteo Berrettini, Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov were also winners. Cilic blasted David Goffin 6-2, 6-2.
On Thursday, the last of the second round finishes with Canadians Raonic and Denis Shapovalov in action along with Gael Monfils, Andrey Rublev and Italian favorite Fabio Fognini.
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