ROME — Novak Djokovic appears back on track after a second-round loss in Madrid last week.
The top-ranked Serb quickly overcame an early break to beat Spanish qualifier Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-3 on Tuesday and reach the third round of the Italian Open.
Djokovic dropped his serve to fall behind 2-1 in the opening set, but broke back immediately and took control from there against his 32-year-old opponent.
The six-time Grand Slam champion didn’t appear to have any problem with his right ankle, which he twisted while representing Serbia in the Davis Cup in April then appeared to hurt again in a loss to Grigor Dimitrov at the Madrid Open last week.
“It was a good performance for a start, although I know I can do better,” Djokovic said. “My game has to be better for the next challenge. I didn’t have a good week in Madrid, but I came here early and did a lot of practice.”
Djokovic didn’t practice for 12 days between winning the Monte Carlo Masters in April and the start of the Madrid tournament.
“I was playing with a degree of injury,” he said. “With Paris and London coming up I need to be 100%. . . . the positive thing is that my ankle is well and I’m playing without pain, and I did not want an injury in the most important part of the year.”
Djokovic has reached the final in four of the five past years at the Foro Italico, winning the title in 2008 and 2011.
Federer has never won in Rome, with his best results being two runner-up finishes. He lost the 2003 final to Felix Mantila and in 2006 dropped a fifth-set tiebreaker to Rafael Nadal.
After a seven-week break from the tennis circuit, Federer returned to action last week and got his clay-court season off to a difficult start with a third-round loss to Kei Nishikori of Japan.
Against Starace, however, Federer never struggled, with the Foro Italico crowd’s support for the local favourite proving useless.
“I feel the way I want to feel,” Federer said. “I’m happy that from start to finish I was able to control the outcome of the match.”
Also reaching the third round were seventh-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, who beat Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia 6-3, 6-2; and ninth-seeded Richard Gasquet, who defeated Dimitrov 6-4, 6-4; while Kevin Anderson of South Africa eliminated 11th-seeded Marin Cilic 6-3, 7-6 (7).
Two seeded players were upset in the first round.