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Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray produced some of their best tennis in the Madrid final on Sunday but the pair admittedly were not able to replicate that form in their first matches in Rome this week.
World No.1 Djokovic claimed a 7-5 7-5 win over qualifier Stephane Robert while second seed Murray beat another qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-3. Afterwards both looked for improvement as they adjust to the different type of clay at the Foro Italico.
“Today was extremely difficult match for several reasons,” said Djokovic. “The conditions were very tough. The player that I played against was very unpredictable with his shots. Obviously he didn’t have anything to lose, so he was going for some shots that were amazing, and with these windy conditions you don’t get too much rhythm.
“So it wasn’t easy for me to kind of find my way through the match, but I think I have done well staying mentally out there and fighting my way back in the second. When it mattered the most, I managed to make him play an extra shot and pull this one through.”
Murray has never made the final in Rome but is confident he can find his feet on the surface after he too battled through.
“It was very, very different to Madrid,” said the Brit. “There is a lot of low bounce especially around the service line. It’s not particularly flat behind the baseline either so moving was not easy.
“It was also quite windy on the court and the conditions were tricky – for me anyway. I found it difficult. I will need to play better than that. But I think the more the tournament goes on, the better you feel. Hopefully I’ll be better in my next match.
“Clay over the years is a surface that I have struggled on really. I haven’t played well on clay courts for most of my career. I think I can play well in these conditions. Hopefully it will be this year.”