Novak Djokovic advanced to the third round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia after a winning debut on this year’s edition over Aslan Karatsev with a 6-3 6-2 score. Djokovic is on a mission here in Rome with a few records on sight: keeping the world number one spot for the 370th week and reaching the 1000 career victories. In order to achieve the first, he will need to reach the semi-finals, while for the second he will have to go one step further -and potentially beat Rafael Nadal.
But his first check on his list of weekly tasks was taken off as he avenged the loss suffered by Karatsen last year in Belgrade. The world number 35 is far from the sparkling form of last year, as testified by only three victories in the last 14 matches played, but “Nole” was clearly motivated not to give him any chances here in Rome.
“He is the kind of player that is tough to face, especially in the early rounds: he takes the time away from you by anticipating a lot and playing close to the baseline. When he limits the number of errors, he can be dangerous for everyone on any surface,” he analysed: “today he did not manage to do that and really gifted me a few games with errors. However, I am satisfied with my performance, though I know I can play better”.
There was another reason for Djokovic to be happy today, as he spotted someone in the crowd who triggered some great memories: “When I came here the first times, there were two kids who were supporting me, chanting ‘Nole, you are one of us’ and I saw them again today and that’s why I signed the camera for them. I saw them, now they are grown-ups, but it gave me a great vibe, really making it for a great side story for me”.
This episode testified the love affair between the Serb and this city, something he confirmed today with the numbers as his victory was the 60th at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
“For me it’s really important to receive the support of the crowd, this was not always the case in my early years. But here in Rome it was different, I always got lots of fans and I always said it feels like a second home here”.