Rome: Holder Novak Djokovic needed a late break in the final set to beat Nicolas Almagro 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 in an opening match at the Italian Open on Tuesday.
Novak Djokovic. Pic/AFP
The Serb world number one rank took his record on the clay of the capital to a 30-5 career record here, with titles in 2008, 2011 and a year ago over Rafael Nadal. Djokovic broke for 5-3 against his Spanish opponent and served out the victory, finishing with 11 aces and just one break of serve. It was the first competitive outing for Djokovic since winning Monte Carlo almost a month ago. The Serb is now riding an 18-match win streak.
Andy Murray will take to the court on Wednesday after agonising with his team as to whether he should play. The back-to-back titleholder at Munich and Madrid will start against France's Jeremy Chardy. Murray's team was split on whether he should compete or rest, with the competition view winning out. Murray, who defeated Nadal in the shock Madrid final, said that his preparation for Roland Garros seems to be on track.
"This year I feel a lot healthier on the clay, I have to thank my team, which has made some big changes in my clay preparation. That's helped for sure," the Scot said. "I also didn't feel much pressure last week, I didn't have very high expectations. I just played and felt better and better in each match." As the complex scheduling of the event proceeded, results were all over the charts.
In the women's first round, Spanish tenth seed Carla Suarez Navarro beat German Mona Barthel 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 while Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic defeated Monica Puig 7-5, 6-3. Former number one Victoria Azarenka, finalist two years ago against Serena Williams, continued her revival after 2014 injuries, advancing over Czech Lucie Hradecka 7-5, 2-6, 6-1. Third seed Maria Sharapova became the first into the third round as she advanced when Australian Jarmila Gajdosova retired trailing 6-2, 3-1.
In the men's first round, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat slumping US Open winner Marin Cilic, the Croatian ninth seed going down 6-4, 6-3. Australian hopes met a quick end a week after Nick Kyrgios beat Roger Federer in Madrid: Spanish 11th seed Feliciano Lopez won his first-round match over Kyrgios 6-4, 7-6 (7/4). Bernard Tomic was then eliminated in a battle, Serb Viktor Troicki advancing 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4).