Novak Djokovic fumes at ‘absolute disaster’ as he wins Rome Masters opener

Novak Djokovic on clay

Novak Djokovic’s return to action at the Rome Masters threatened to descend into chaos after he became the latest player to complain about the main show court at the Foro Italico.

Despite his concerns, Djokovic still managed to come through the match with a 7-6 (5), 6-2 win, after a tense first set tie-break that could have gone against him until a thrilling burst of brilliance from the legend push him over the winning line.

Wearing an arm support to protect the elbow problem that has been a big concern over the last month, Djokovic started slowly in his match against Argentina’s Tomas Etcheverry.

Yet it was not just his opponent that was troubling Djokovic, as he labelled the conditions at the ATP 1000 event as an “absolute disaster” in an exchange with chair umpire Adel Nour.

Windy conditions in Rome earlier this week inspired tournament organisers to put extra clay down on the courts after bare patches were appearing.

Now it seems as if there is too much clay on the top surface, with Djokovic suggesting “every bounce is different”, as he battled his opponent and the conditions.

Djokovic got umpire Nour to get some clay brushed off the court after a delay in the match mid-way through the first set, as he looked agitated on his return to the ATP Tour.

His misery was compounded as it seemed he was feeling unwell on cour and he asked for medical assistance from his team at courtside at the back end of the first set.

With his former coach and idol Stefan Edberg looking on in a crowd that also featured Roma boss Jose Mourinho, Djokovic was troubled by getting clay in his eyes as appeared to be uncomfortable out on court.

Yet the sight of the outgoing world No 1 competing again will encourage his fans ahead of his attempt to win a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title at the French Open.

Djokovic has admitted he is unsure of his form ahead of the second major of 2023, as the Serbian admitted the in-form Carlos Alcaraz is the player to beat in Paris.

“He has been playing some very impressive tennis,” Djokovic said of the 20-year-old Spaniard, who will replace him as world No 1 at the end of the Italian Open.

“A great level. He’s the player to beat on this surface, no doubt. Of course, it depends if [Rafael] Nadal is going to play in French Open or not.

“But Alcaraz is one of the top favourites without any dilemma. He’s been playing fantastic tennis. We faced each other only once last year in Madrid.

“If we get a chance to face each other here, would be in finals. I think we would both love to play in the finals.

“It is strange that we haven’t been in the same draw since the beginning of the season. Due to the circumstances on both sides, that didn’t happen.

“He’s going to be No 1 after this tournament whatever happens. Deservedly so.”

Djokovic has also insisted his elbow problem is no longer a concern, despite the arm protection he wore against Etcheverry.

“It’s all good,” he added of the injury. “There are always some things here and there that bother you at this level. It’s normal.

“When you’re not 20-25 anymore, you experience that a bit more than what used to be the case.

“I feel good. Historically throughout my career, Rome has been a very nice tournament for me, I had success in it many times, got to finals.

“It’s my most successful clay-court event. Coming into the French Open it can be a great springboard for what’s coming up in Paris where I want to be at my best.”

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic explains why it is so difficult to adapt to clay – ‘Sometimes it’s really overwhelming’