A rainy afternoon interrupted what was a fun day of tennis at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where all first-round matches were completed on the ATP draw. Only Novak Djokovic was forced to interrupt his match and it happened right after failing to serve it out against Taylor Fritz. Anyhow, the defending champion looked much more comfortable out there than last year’s finalist, Diego Schwartzman, who was one of the several upsets of the day.
The day immediately started with a surprise: even if Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina had been making a name for himself in the past weeks and had passed the qualifications here very comfortably, it was hard to foresee a two sets victory over Grigor Dimitrov. Only one break decided the first set, while things got even tighter in the second. Eventually, it was the Spaniard’s solid game to prevail, with the world number 17 missing three times in the deciding tiebreak. 6-4 7-6(2) the result for the 21-year-old who will now face another qualifier, Cameron Norrie, who needed two 6-4s to advance past Roberto Carballes Baena.
Another upset came by the hands of another promising youngster, Felix Auger-Aliassime, who left only 4 games to last year’s finalist Diego Schwartzman. The Argentine never felt into the match and the double fault that closed his performance was the perfect summary of an unexpected bad day.
Two more players managed to advance to the 3rd round before the rain break: Reilly Opelka, who served his way past Italian young prospect Lorenzo Musetti with a double 6-4 and no break points faced, and Kei Nishikori, who benefit from a walkover given by Pablo Carreno Busta.
Straight set victories allowed to the second round Roberto Bautista Agut, John Millman and Denis Shapovalov.
The only two deciders of the day, before rain came as forecast to the Foro Italico, were played by two home players. Coming straight from the Madrid final, Matteo Berrettini needed one set to adapt to the different conditions and find the countermeasures to the tricky game of Nikoloz Basilashvili. A one-way-traffic second set put the score on tie and the third set finally felt like a balanced contest. The two played a high-quality decider, in which the world number 9 had to save three delicate break points in the seventh game. The Georgian, on the other hand, only faced one in the set, which coincidentally was also a match point and that Berrettini made his with a strong forehand: 4-6 6-2 6-4.
Lorenzo Sonego also needed three sets to advance to the second round: almost three hours of battle with Gael Monfils were the price to pay, but it was a great show. The Frenchman showed plenty of his tricks, including a jumping smash to force to the decider, but in the end, it was the Italian’s controlled aggression to pay off.
Rain came around 5.00pm and interrupted only one match, however, it was not to please the defending champion Novak Djokovic. The world number one served to close it out against Taylor Fritz, but he got nervous and suffered the return of the American. Play resumed just before 8.00pm on 6-3 5-5. Both players hold their serves and a tiebreak decided the result: ‘Nole’ looked far calmer than before the interruption and executed a precise plan to make his rival run for each shot. The young American did not manage to limit his oppponent and struggled to keep up with the angles of the Serb who closed not long after the resumption 6-3 7-6(5).
The two remaining matches of the day on the men draw were postponed to tomorrow.