Nadal, Djokovic kick off Italian Open campaigns with straight-set wins

Rome, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and second-ranked Rafael Nadal both looked sharp in their first matches here Wednesday at the Italian Open, brushing aside Salvatore Caruso and Pablo Carreño Busta, respectively, in straight sets.

Djokovic, who was taking the court for the first time since being defaulted from the US Open for accidentally striking a line judge with a ball, defeated Caruso 6-3, 6-2 at the fan-less Foro Italico.

It took the top-seeded Serbian a few games to assert control against his Italian opponent, who saved two break points before tying the match at 3-3 in the first set with a successful net approach.

But Caruso lost his serve two games later with a pair of forehand errors on the final two points, and the 17-time Grand Slam champion then finished off the set in the ensuing game when he wrong-footed the Italian with a down-the-line forehand.

Djokovic got off to a faster start in the second set, breaking Caruso’s serve in a long third game that he finished off with a crosscourt forehand winner.

The Serbian continued to hold serve easily and grabbed one last service break in the seventh game of the set when Caruso netted a backhand approach shot.

The four-time Italian Open champion then finished off the victory with a love service hold.

“It was a very good test for me. I’m very pleased with the way I handled myself in important moments,” Djokovic said after running his record in the coronavirus-interrupted season to 27-1. “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.”

Next up for the Serbian in the round of 16 will be countryman Filip Krajinovic, who defeated Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-1 on Wednesday.

While Djokovic had to make the transition to clay courts, Nadal faced the bigger challenge of taking on a top-20 opponent in what was his first ATP Tour match in more than six months.

The second-seeded Spaniard, who skipped the US Open due to coronavirus concerns, has his sights set on a 13th French Open title and took a positive step in that direction with a surprisingly easy 6-1, 6-1 second-round victory Wednesday night over an in-form Carreño Busta.

Nadal looked shaky in the opening service game, squandering a 40-0 lead on serve and having to fend off a break point before taking a 1-0 lead.

Carreño Busta, who was leading Djokovic in the first set of their US Open fourth-round match when the Serbian was defaulted and ended up making a surprise run to the semifinals in New York, answered by holding his own serve in the second game.

But it was all Nadal from that point forward.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion hit a pair of crosscourt backhand winners en route to earning his first service break of the match and grabbing a 3-1 lead.

He then stretched that advantage to 5-1 with a second service break as Carreño Busta started showing his frustration and attempting low-percentage shots that landed outside the lines.

Nadal, who is keen on getting sufficient match play before the French Open kicks off later this month, was in no mood to take his foot off the pedal and clinched the first set with an ace.

In the second set, Carreño Busta barely managed to hold serve in the opening game before Nadal reeled off six straight games to clinch the victory.

Nadal broke serve in the third game of that set with a remarkable running forehand passing shot and a forehand volley winner on the final two points.

The Spaniard struck his most potent weapon – his forehand – with power, spin and accuracy in the second set, punishing any balls left short in the court and leaving his opponent little choice but to go for risky shots that resulted in unforced errors.

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