ROME • Novak Djokovic turned the page on his contentious US Open exit and began his clay-court season with a convincing 6-3, 6-2 victory over wild card Salvatore Caruso in the second round of the Italian Open yesterday.
The world No. 1 was disqualified in New York after accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball during his fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.
Djokovic’s frustration boiled over after dropping his serve against the Spaniard in the opening set at Flushing Meadows, but 10 days on in Rome, he did not face a single break point in an imperious display against the unseeded Caruso.
“Obviously I had an early exit (at the US Open) so had more time to prepare,” the Serbian said courtside. “I did practice for a week now and tried to play some sets coming into this ATP 1000 match.
“Caruso is a clay court specialist and it was a great challenge today.”
On arrival in Rome, an apologetic Djokovic vowed to be “the best version” of himself on and off the court, and he kept his emotions in check against local hope Caruso.
Four-time Rome champion Djokovic, who received an opening-round bye, broke Caruso’s serve in the eighth game before serving out the opening set.
Caruso, who battled past American Tennys Sandgren in the opening round for his first ATP Masters 1000 match win, dropped his serve in a see-saw third game of the second set which lasted nearly 12 minutes.
With momentum firmly on his side, top seed Djokovic broke his opponent for a third time in the match before celebrating by blowing kisses into the empty stands at the Foro Italico.
Having recorded 51 victories in 60 matches, Djokovic is the second most successful player in the tournament’s history – just behind nine-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic has won 27 of his 28 matches this year and will resume his hunt for an 18th Grand Slam title at the French Open, which begins on Sept 27.
“My best results have come on hard court but I enjoy competing on clay,” said the 33-year-old, who will face either fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic or Italy’s Marco Cecchinato for a place in the last-16.
“It’s a demanding surface where you have to be patient and construct your points.”