World No. 1 Novak Djokovic began his bid for a fifth Internazionali BNL d'Italia trophy with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Italy's Salvatore Caruso in second-round action Wednesday in Rome.
Competing on clay for the first time since his semifinal loss at the 2019 French Open, the top-seeded Serbian also played for the first time since his U.S. Open ejection on Sept. 6.
"It was a very good test for me. I'm very pleased with the way I handled myself in important moments," Djokovic said. "I was in control of the match. Served well when I needed to come up with a big serve and moved well.
"I constructed the points as the clay courts demand, because it's obviously completely different surface in terms of building the point tactically. Everything went well. I'm very pleased."
Djokovic converted three of his eight break chances and never faced a break point during the match, which lasted 1 hour and 24 minutes. The 33-year-old won 26 of 32 points on his first serve and improved his record this year to 27-1.
He will face countryman Filip Krajinovic in the third round. Krajinovic, who advanced with a 6-4, 6-1 win against Italy's Marco Cecchinato, won the only previous meeting when Djokovic retired during their match on the clay in Belgrade back in 2010.
Djokovic also improved his record in this tournament to 51-9. The only man with more success in the event is nine-time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain.
Nadal, the No. 2 seed, collected his 62nd win in the Italian capital Wednesday with a breezy 6-1, 6-1 triumph against Spanish compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta.
Playing his first tour-level match in 200 days (since Feb. 29), Nadal showed zero rust in the 73-minute win at the Foro Italico. He finished the first set with an ace and closed out the match with his fifth service break against Carreno Busta, who was coming off a loss in the U.S. Open semifinals.
"It's good to be back on the Tour," Nadal said. "I played a good match, maybe he was a little bit tired after all his matches in New York. It was a perfect start for me. It was solid. I hit good shots on the forehand and backhand. I didn't expect to play that well."
He will face No. 13 seed Milos Raonic of Canada or Serbia's Dusan Lajovic in the third round.
Other seeded winners Wednesday included No. 4 Matteo Berrettini of Italy and No. 15 Grigor Dmitrov of Bulgaria.
Italy's Jannik Sinner upset No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, 6-1, 6-7 (9), 6-2. Croatia's Marin Cilic upset No. 6 seed David Goffin of Belgium, 6-2, 6-2.
--Field Level Media