Novak Djokovic scratches out opening win, Norrie finds form

Novak Djokovic during a match

In an unexpectedly close match on Friday, Novak Djokovic defeated Tomas Etcheverry 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 to go to the third round of the Italian Open.

The Argentine made the six-time Rome champion fight for his victory, which came in an hour and 51 minutes. Djokovic will now face Grigor Dimitrov in the third round, who defeated Stan Wawrinka earlier in the day.

Djokovic has not been knocked out of an ATP tour event at the first attempt since the Monte Carlo Masters last year.

“I’ve said before that this surface requires more time for me than maybe for other players to get myself to a good level, move well and hit the ball well. Rome has always been a tournament that I need for Roland Garros,” Djokovic said in Italian to Sky Sport.

“This is my favourite clay tournament, there’s an incredible atmosphere on centre court and the consistency that I’ve had in previous years gives me a lot of faith.”

In other action, Cameron Norrie eased into the third round of the Italian Open while defending women’s champion Iga Swiatek was in ruthless form.

British number one Norrie has yet to really catch fire on clay so far this season, winning one match each in Barcelona and Madrid and losing his first encounter in Monte-Carlo, so a 6-2 6-3 victory over French qualifier Alexandre Muller was much needed.

While it was a match Norrie would certainly have expected to win, the manner of his success was particularly encouraging, with the 27-year-old facing only one break point and taking his own chances confidently.

Next the 13th seed will face Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, who upset Australian Alex de Minaur 6-3 6-4.

Italian number one Jannik Sinner made a strong start to his campaign, beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-1 6-4, while another Australian, Alexei Popyrin, upset Felix Auger-Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov saw off Stan Wawrinka.

Performance of the day, though, came from world number one Swiatek, who responded to her Madrid Open final loss to Aryna Sabalenka by thumping former French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0 6-0.

Russian Pavlyuchenkova, who is working her way back from long-term injury, saved six set points in the opener but was unable to get on the board.

Swiatek lost on her Rome debut in 2020 to Arantxa Rus but is now on a 12-match winning streak in the Italian capital.

“When I’m playing these kind of matches, I’m just trying to be focused,” the Pole told reporters. “I’m trying to remember what got me this nice score, what I should do to continue playing that well.

“I don’t want to lose points on purpose. It doesn’t make sense. So I’m always going to be that kind of player who wants to win the next point.”

Fourth seed Ons Jabeur, who lost to Swiatek in the final last year, was beaten 6-1 6-4 by Paula Badosa on her return from injury while ninth seed Maria Sakkari defeated Barbora Strycova, who is back on tour after maternity leave, 6-1 6-3.

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