Novak Djokovic opened his bid for a fifth Internazionali BNL d’Italia trophy on Wednesday, beating Salvatore Caruso 6-3, 6-2 to reach the third round.
Competing for the first time on clay since his semi-final loss to Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros last year, the World No. 1 improved as the match progressed to record his 51st victory in 60 matches at the ATP Masters 1000 event. In terms of matches won, Djokovic is the second most successful player in tournament history. Only nine-time winner Rafael Nadal, who meets Pablo Carreno Busta later in the day, owns more victories in the Italian capital (61).
Djokovic has now won 27 of his 28 matches this year. The Serbian owns a tour-leading three trophies this year, having already triumphed at the Australian Open, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and Western & Southern Open in 2020.
The 33-year-old, who tied Pete Sampras’ tally of 286 weeks as the No. 1 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday, is aiming to lift a record 36th Masters 1000 crown this week. Djokovic currently shares the record with fellow 35-time Masters 1000 champion Nadal.
After failing to convert two break points at 3-2 in the first set, the Belgrade native broke serve for the first time two games later. Djokovic retuned with consistent depth to rush his opponent, who committed a series of errors from the baseline.
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In the second set, Djokovic raised his level to earn two further service breaks en route to his second victory in as many ATP Head2Head matches against Caruso. The four-time champion dictated play with his forehand to break serve in an 11-minute game at 1-1 and closed out the match with back-to-back love service holds.
Djokovic will continue his quest for a fifth Rome title against Marco Cecchinato or Filip Krajinovic. The 6’2” right-hander is tied at 1-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Cecchinato and retired during his only previous meeting against Krajinovic.