Djokovic Dominates In Rome Opener
When the ATP Rankings were released Monday, Novak Djokovic fell to No. 18, his lowest standing since 2 October 2006 (No. 22). As last year’s runner-up in Rome, the Serbian has 600 points to defend, putting him in danger of tumbling even further as he continues his comeback from a right elbow injury.
"It was a great start. I always feel very comfortable in Rome. I think the conditions are quite suitable to my game," Djokovic said. "I always look forward to coming back to Rome."
The former World No. 1, who has triumphed at the Foro Italico four times and reached the final each of the past two years, seeks to win back-to-back matches for the first time since Monte-Carlo, where he lost a three-setter against Madrid runner-up Dominic Thiem in the Round of 16.
Djokovic showed positive signs with his form on Court Centrale, displaying his trademark elasticity to neutralise Dolgopolov’s flashy offence, forcing the former World No. 13 into errors. The Serbian was also aggressive on return, placing plenty of balls within a couple feet of the baseline, taking away the Ukrainian’s ability to attack.
Perhaps Djokovic’s only hiccup came early in the second set, at 1-1. The No. 11 seed faced his one and only break point of the match, but answered with two unreturnable first serves and a high-kicking second serve on game point that Dolgopolov was unable to return to the net. Djokovic broke in the next game with an aggressive second-serve return, eliciting a short ball that he pounced on, striking a crisp crosscourt forehand winner.
"The last three, four weeks have been better on the practice courts and in matches," Djokovic said. "Today's match encourages me to move forward and hopefully I can get a few more matches in Rome than I have in the last couple months."
The 30-year-old, who extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against Dolgopolov to 6-0, will face one of two qualifiers he has never played in the second round — Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili or Italian Filippo Baldi. If he gets through that match, No. 8 seed and Miami champion John Isner could await in the third round. The American will face Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, the 2017 Monte-Carlo finalist, who came from a set and a break down to oust Argentine Federico Delbonis 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 in two hours, 14 minutes.
In other action, Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, who has proven his prowess on the red dirt with a runner-up finish this year in Buenos Aires (l. to Thiem) and a semi-final showing just weeks ago in Budapest, defeated Luxembourg's tricky left-hander Gilles Muller 6-4, 6-4 in one hour, 28 minutes. Bedene lost just three first-serve points to earn his second Masters 1000 match win of the season.
Did You Know?
Novak Djokovic has never lost before the quarter-finals in Rome in 11 appearances.