Novak Djokovic advanced to the third-round in Rome with a 6-3 6-2 win over Aslan Karatsev in 90 minutes. It was their first meeting since the 28-year-old stunned Djokovic on home soil in Belgrade last year but the top seed managed to get revenge and keep himself alive in the race to hold onto his world No 1 ranking. Daniil Medvedev will overtake him at the top unless Djokovic reaches the semi-finals this week.
It was a third meeting between Djokovic and Karatsev, with their head-to-head tied at one win apiece. The world No 1 was looking to get revenge over the 28-year-old after losing their last meeting on the clay-courts of his own Novak Tennis Centre in Belgrade last year, and started strong as he immediately broke to lead 2-0.
But the world No 35 broke straight back to get things level until the top seed pounced once more to break for a 5-3 lead, serving out the opening set in X minutes. Djokovic continued his run of games into the second set, finally taking his fourth break point in a ten-minute opening game to lead by a set and a break.
It was a moral bagel for the five-time former champion, who had won the last three games of the opening set and won the first four of the second, going up a double break. The Russian then survived a lengthy, three-deuce game, saving a set point as he finally got himself on the scoreboard in the second set, trailing 1-4.