Rome Masters 2018: Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori make winning start; Victoria Azarenka crashes out
12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic rebounded from a second round defeat at last week’s Madrid Masters to cruise through his opener at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia in Rome on Monday. The four-time winner, who is seeded 11th this time, needed just 56 minutes to prevail over World No. 54 Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1, 6-3.
The former numero uno player has now nosedived to 18th, his lowest ranking since October, 2006 as he claws his way back to the pinnacle after suffering a right elbow injury.
Djokovic, who recently reunited with former long-time coach Marian Vajda, showed signs of his champion self as he made in-roads into the Dolgopolov serve four times.
Kei Nishikori too made a confidence-boosting start to his campaign by grinding out a tough 7-6(5), 6-4 win over Feliciano Lopez. The Japanese came to this tournament after a first round defeat to Djokovic in Madrid.
Ninth seed David Goffin blasted Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 6-2 while 10th seed Pablo Carreno Busta needed three sets to beat Jared Donaldson 6-4, 3-6, 6-0. Philipp Kohlschreiber had to fight for 3 hours 5 minutes to prevail over 21-year-old Karen Khachanov 7-5, 6-7(7), 7-6(6).
Fabio Fognini delighted the home crowd with a comfortable 6-3, 6-1 win over Gael Monfils. Benoit Paire won an all-French duel when he beat Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-4.
Osaka demolishes Azarenka, Vinci ends career
On the women’s side, two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka was outplayed 0-6, 3-6 by World No. 21 Naomi Osaka. The Indian Wells champion broke the former World No. 1’s serve five times and saved four of the five break points she faced.
Ninth seed and Miami Open champion Sloane Stephens battled back from a set down to register a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-1 win over the 25th ranked Barbora Strycova. 2017 US Open runner-up Madison Keys also made a smooth progress into Round 2 by defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-1.
Italian veterans Francesca Schiavone and Roberta Vinci bowed out. The former French Open champion Schiavone was edged 1-6, 7-6(5), 2-6 by Dominika Cibulkova while the 2015 US Open runner-up Vinci fell 6-2, 0-6, 3-6 to Alexandra Krunic in what was the last professional match of her career.
Other winners of the day included Daria Gavrilova, Johanna Konta, Donna Vekic and Kaia Kanepi.