ATP: Novak Djokovic starts strong in Rome; Casper Ruud out in shocker

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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia overcame a shaky start and defeated French lucky loser Corentin Moutet 6-3, 6-1 in his first match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Friday in Rome.

Djokovic is on to the Round of 32 after taking care of Moutet in 84 minutes. He dropped his first two service games to fall behind 3-1 before winning the final five games of the set and 11 of the final 12 games overall.

“I played a lefty and I have not practiced with a lefty in a while, so it took me a little time to adjust to the different rotations of the ball,” Djokovic said. “The first four games were quite bad from me. A bad start.

“But then I played well. I only lost one game from 1-3 down. Corentin is a very talented player. He has great hands and is very unpredictable. You don’t know what comes up next, so I had to stay focused, which I did, and it is a good opening match.”

Djokovic needed only one ace en route to victory. He saved 5 of 7 break points while converting 6 of 9 chances to break Moutet.

Djokovic is now only one match win away from 1,100 for his career. His next opponent will be No. 29 seed Alejandro Tabilo of Chile, who defeated Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 7-6 (4).

No. 5 seed Casper Ruud of Norway was upset in surprising fashion. After sweeping the first set against Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic, Ruud fell 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 on his preferred surface, clay. Ruud once won four clay-court tournaments in a row and was a semifinalist in Rome in 2020, 2022 and 2023.

“It means a lot, especially on clay, where he is one of the best players today,” said Kecmanovic, who had seven aces to just one double fault. “I’m happy that I was able (after the first set) to come back and win.”

No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany cruised to a 6-0, 6-4 win over Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic, and No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria beat Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5, 6-4.

Three American stalwarts are on to the next round. No. 11 seed Taylor Fritz swept Italian wild card Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4; No. 12 Ben Shelton rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Russia’s Pavel Kotov; and No. 24 Sebastian Korda outlasted Italy’s Flavio Cobolli 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-4.

Ruud was not the only seeded player eliminated Friday. Portugal’s Nuno Borges defeated No. 15 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-4, as Bublik’s seven aces were hindered by six double faults. China’s Zhizhen Zhang knocked out French No. 19 seed Adrian Mannarino 6-1, 6-3.

Italian qualifier Francesco Passaro, ranked just No. 240 in the world, toppled No. 23 seed Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5). Another Italy native, Luciano Darderi, beat No. 28 Mariano Navone of Argentina 6-3, 6-2, and Brazilian qualifier Thiago Monteiro upset Australian No. 32 Jordan Thompson 6-1, 6-3.

No. 16 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia and No. 20 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina both won in straight sets. French qualifier Terence Atmane moved on when No. 26 seed Lorenzo Musetti of Italy retired down 7-5, 1-0.

–Field Level Media

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