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Novak Djokovic celebrated his straight-sets win over Aslan Karatsev with a special message to his fans watching in Italy. The world No 1 suffered a shock defeat to the in-form Carlos Alcaraz at the weekend in the Madrid Open.
But he faced a quick turnaround in returning to action at the Italian Open with a tough opening match against Karatsev. The Russian tennis star has slipped down the rankings in recent months having been as high as No 14.
Despite his poor form of late, Karatsev went into the match against Djokovic with confidence having won the previous contest between the pair in Belgrade last year. But the 28-year-old was never in contention to repeat his feat from 2021 with Djokovic winning in just 90 minutes.
Djokovic was all smiles at the end of the match as he gave away a few souvenirs to some spectators. The Italian Open is a favourite even for Djokovic, having won the tournament five times.
He will be hoping for a sixth title this week in his bid to keep his world No 1 ranking and he’s clearly hoping to have the Italian support on his side. After the win over Karatsev, Djokovic wrote on the camera: “One of us – I love you Rome.”
Djokovic didn’t appear to break a sweat in the win over Karatsev, and the Serbian admits his opponent was not on top of his game.
“Very strong guy, just solid from the baseline,” Djokovic said. “You never know with him. If he’s feeling the ball, it can be very dangerous because he stays so close to the line.
“He was missing a lot of balls today though. He gave me a couple of breaks in the first and second. I’ll take this win for sure. It’s a straight-sets win over a quality opponent and I’m looking forward to that next challenge.”
Djokovic now moves into the third round where he will face either Stan Wawrinka or Laslo Djere in an all-Serbian affair. Rafael Nadal gets his Italian Open draw off and running tomorrow against American John Isner.
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