World number one Novak Djokovic returned to winning ways with a comfortable victory over Russian Aslan Karatsev at the Italian Open.

Djokovic, who turns 35 later this month, responded to last week’s defeat by Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid with a 6-3 6-2 win in the Rome second round.

British number one Cameron Norrie shook off some early nerves to beat teenage wildcard Luca Nardi in the first round.

Norrie, 26, served well in the key moments to win 6-4 6-4.

Serbia’s Djokovic received a first-round bye as the top seed and, three days after losing to Alcaraz in the Madrid semi-finals, continued his preparations for his defence of the French Open with a one-sided win over Karatsev.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has not played as much as he usually would going into Roland Garros, having been stopped from defending his Australian Open crown and playing in tournaments in the United States because of his refusal to have a Covid-19 vaccination.

Despite conceding he is far from his best form, Djokovic moved well and showed more fluency with his shots as the match against world number 35 Karatsev went on.

Sterner tests are likely to await Djokovic as he looks to maintain his number one ranking by reaching the Rome semi-finals.

The five-time champion will face either fellow Serb Laslo Djere or Swiss three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, who won his first tour match in 15 months on Monday, in the last 16.

The Masters 1000 event in the Italian capital concludes on Sunday, a week before the French Open starts at Roland Garros.

Cameron Norrie
Cameron Norrie broke into the world’s top 10 for the first time last month

Norrie is seeded ninth in the Italian capital and, having had to qualify to reach the main draw last year, it is another indicator of how far he has come in the past 12 months.

But he was pushed at times by the 18-year-old Italian, who was buoyed by a partisan crowd.

Norrie, who won 87% of first-serve points, faced two break points in his opening service game before settling.

“I need to clean up a lot of errors,” Norrie told Amazon Prime.

“But I was pleased how I turned it around after that start though.

“I came out very, very nervous and very tight for whatever reason. I was just missing a lot of second-serve returns and not playing as aggressive as I would like.”

Norrie found himself 15-40 down when serving for the first set, but two big serves pulled him to deuce and he served it out. The Briton broke in the first game of the second set, keeping hold of the early advantage and wrapping up the win when Nardi went long with a backhand.

World number 11 Norrie, who was beaten in the third round in Madrid last week by eventual champion Alcaraz, will play Croatia’s 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the second round.

In the women’s event in Rome, British number one Emma Raducanu opens her campaign against a fellow US Open champion in Canadian Bianca Andreescu later on Tuesday.


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