Novak Djokovic might have taken a three week vacation physically from the tennis courts, but he was certainly mentally prepared when he hit his first round vs Nicolas Almagro Tuesday at the 2015 Rome Masters Open. It was a two hour match with the number one tennis player in the world defeating Almagro 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-3 so it wasn’t such an easy one, but Djokovic was rested to play for hours more if needed.
Djokovic looked to have victory in hand against the former World No. 9 as he raced to a 5-2 lead in the second-set tie-break, but it was Almagro who pulled off five straight points to force the decider. The Spaniard again looked to be in trouble as he tripped awkwardly on a wide forehand at 2-2 in the third set, prompting a nice moment of sportsmanship as Djokovic checked on his opponent. Though Almagro recovered from his fall, Djokovic would need just one break at 3-4 to set himself up for a three-set victory.
The Serb saved the only break point he faced in the match, while converting on all three break opportunities he created. Both players served up 11 aces in the contest.
“At the end of the day it’s a win after three weeks with no official match,” said Djokovic. “In the important moments today, I did feel a little bit uncomfortable. Maybe that’s due to a lack of competitive play in the past couple of weeks. But I won against a quality player, who knows how to play on the big stage. All in all, it was a great test. Before coming to the court, I was aware he was going to present a great challenge.
“I needed to take some time off, because I have played a lot of matches,” continued the Serb. “It has been one of the best starts to the season of my life. But it took a lot out of me, mostly mentally. So I needed to really take it off, recharge my batteries and spend some time at home. It probably did affect my overall feeling on the court today, especially in the tough moments. Hopefully the day off tomorrow will allow to spend some more time on the court, working to get better in the next one.”
Djokovic, who extended his current winning streak to 18 matches on Tuesday, is looking to add a fourth Rome title to his mantle after becoming the first player to win the opening three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events of the 2015 season.
Roberto Bautista Agut and Thomaz Bellucci will duel for the right to play Djokovic in the third round. No. 14 seed Bautista Agut won an all-Spanish clash with Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-3, while qualifier Bellucci was leadingDiego Schwartzman 6-4, 4-3 when the Argentine was forced to retire. Bautista won that duel so he’s off to face the powerhouse Djokovic.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga finished strongly to defeat Sam Querrey 7-6(6), 6-0 in the first round. The 12th-seeded Frenchman broke Querrey five times as he raced to victory in 85 minutes, setting a second-round clash with David Goffin, who rallied from a set down to beat Italian qualifier Andrea Arnaboldi5-7, 6-2, 6-1.
The 30-year-old Tsonga, playing just his fifth tournament of the year after returning from injury, leads Goffin 3-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head and will look for a repeat of his straight-sets win in Monte-Carlo over the Belgian.