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Novak Djokovic eases into next round of Italian Open after beating wildcard Salvatore Caruso

World No 1 wins first game back since being disqualified from US Open in straight sets

Novak Djokovic attempted to turn the page on his US Open disqualification with a convincing 6-3, 6-2 victory over wildcard Salvatore Caruso in the second round of the Italian Open on Wednesday.

Djokovic was kicked out in New York after accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball during his fourth round match against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta.

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 boy Caruso.

Four-times 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 victory by blowing kisses into the empty stands at the Foro Italico.

The world No 1 was mostly courteous with the chair umpire during his victory at the claycourt tournament is an important warm-up for the rescheduled French Open, which starts in 11 days.

When the umpire came down to inspect a ball mark on the red clay early in the first set and made an overrule in Caruso’s favor, Djokovic just replied, “Yup,” and rubbed out the mark with his red sneaker.

When Caruso impressed him – the Italian hit 13 winners to Djokovic’s 12 – Djokovic said, “Bravo.”

The Serb’s only testy moment came during the third game of the second set, which went to deuce seven times before Djokovic finally broke Caruso’s serve.

As the game wore on, Djokovic appeared bothered by crowd noise, even though the stadium was empty of fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The only people inside were coaches and others working at the tournament.

“Which ones?” the umpire asked Djokovic, trying to figure out who was bothering him. He replied curtly: “There’s 10 people in the stands.”

The Serbian, a four-time Rome champion, faces either Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato or Filip Krajinovic in the next round.

Also in the second round, Rome resident Matteo Berrettini defeated Argentina Federico Coria 7-5, 6-1, and Marin Cilic beat sixth-seeded David Goffin 6-2, 6-2.

Nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal was due to make his return to competition after a seven-month absence against Pablo Carreno Busta later in the day.

Published: September 16, 2020 05:34 PM

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