• Internazionali BNL d'Italia

Djokovic back on solid footing in Rome win

ESPN staff
May 15, 2012

Novak Djokovic returned to the comforts of the traditional red clay court surface on Tuesday, making a happy start to the defence of his Internazionali BNL d'Italia title against Bernard Tomic.

Djokovic, along with Rafael Nadal, was extremely vocal in his disdain for the blue clay at the Madrid Open last week, which he claimed was inconsistent and slippy under foot. There were no such worries in Rome, though, as the world No. 1 scorched through his second round match with Tomic, winning 6-3 6-3.

Playing the youngest player in the world's top 50, Djokovic gave his rival no time to settle in one of the day's evening matches, breaking in the first game. The Serb continued to keep the ball deep and his angles sharp as he broke again in the third, and that proved enough to take the set.

Djokovic is bidding to win his third title of the season this week, but his victory march against Tomic was momentarily delayed by a quite magnificent backhand volley from the teenager who stayed on serve until the sixth game. At that point Djokovic broke again, and he closed out the match with little fuss to progress in 70 minutes.

Sixth seed David Ferrer joined Djokovic in the third round after he succeeded where Nadal failed in Madrid, beating Fernando Verdasco. Returning to a slower court, Ferrer's defensive abilities outshone the attacking game of Verdasco in an all-Spanish encounter, which was settled 6-3 7-6(3).

If that result had been expected, the loss of 13th seed Gaels Monfils to Juan Carlos Ferrero was perhaps less so. Ferrero, the 32-year-old former French Open champion, created 11 break points and converted five to claim a 7-5 6-3 win.

There was some good news for French tennis as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga blasted his way past Viktor Troicki. Tsonga needed an hour and ten minutes as he broke five times in a 6-3 6-2 victory.

The day's first-round action saw Juan Martin Del Potro endure arguably the toughest passage as he battled past Michael Llodra in a high quality three-set battle. Llodra's willingness to attack the net made for an eye-catching contest, prompting an array of fine shots from Del Potro - most memorably a sliding backhand slice winner, as the Argentine eventually triumphed 7-5 3-6 6-4.

One of the biggest names to fall at the first hurdle was 15th seed Feliciano Lopez, who was beaten in straight sets by compatriot Marcel Granollers. Lopez was unable to rely on his trusty serve, which produced one ace, as he was broken three times in a 6-4 6-4 defeat.

Elsewhere, there were notable victories for Richard Gasquet, Sam Querrey, Gilles Simon and Juan Monaco.

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