ATP Rome: Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz and rain for winning start

World no. 1 Novak Djokovic beat Taylor Fritz 6-3, 7-6 after a massive rain delay to make a winning start in Rome. The Serb squandered a chance to seal the deal at 6-3, 5-4, having to wait for three more hours to get back on the court and cross the finish line in the tie break. Djokovic saved five out of seven break points and delivered three breaks that carried him home, struggling a bit but hitting 23 winners and 22 unforced errors. Novak won seven points more than Taylor in the opener, firing 12 winners and eight unforced errors and stealing the rival’s serve once for 6-3. The Serb saved two break chances while he was already in front, pushing Taylor to the limits in the shortest and most extended exchanges to secure that early break and forge the advantage. Djokovic held at 30 in the first game with a good smash and grabbed a break following Fritz’s backhand mistake in game two. Novak forced Taylor’s forehand error to cement the break and open a 3-0 advantage in just over ten minutes.

The American saved two break points in game four to avoid a double break deficit and held after Novak’s double fault to reduce the deficit and get his name on the scoreboard. The five-time champion secured the fifth game with a service winner before the younger player held at 15 to remain within one break deficit. Serving at 4-2, Djokovic erased two break points and held with a service winner to extend the advantage.

Novak Djokovic ousted Taylor Fritz for the fourth time in as many matches.

Novak produced a comfortable service game at 5-3 to secure the opening set with a forehand down the line winner after 35 minutes. Carried by this momentum, world no. 1 opened the second set with a break at love, hoping to seal the deal as soon as possible and avoid rain delays. The Serb confirmed the advantage with a perfect drop shot winner in game two before spraying a massive forehand error in game four in heavy rain to hand the game to Taylor.

Regaining focus, Novak placed a forehand down the line winner in game five to secure another break and restore the order, especially after a hold at 15 that propelled him 4-2 up. Djokovic had to dig deep to stay in front in game eight, fending off three break chances and bringing it home when Fritz netted a forehand. Serving for staying in the match, Taylor held at 15 to reduce the deficit to 4-5, hoping for a miracle on the return after the break. The American played an incredible game and broke Novak at 15 after cracking a backhand down the line winner, leveling the score at 5-5 and staying alive.

Djokovic went mad and blasted the chair umpire, asking him to check the lines thrice before that game and leaving the court in anger. Returning to the court three hours later, Fritz fired a forehand crosscourt winner to move 6-5 ahead, forcing Djokovic to serve for staying in the match. The five-time champion brought the 12th game home with an ace to set up a tie break, a must-winning one for the American. Novak opened a 4-2 advantage with a service winner before losing the following three points, at Taylor opened a 5-4 lead with a backhand winner. Staying calm, Djokovic won two points on serve and sealed the deal with a mini-break at 6-5 to advance into the third round. 

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