ROME – Novak Djokovic began his quest to defend his sixth Italian title and his world number one ranking with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Aslan Karatsev in the second round on Tuesday.

Top seed Djokovic, who was eliminated in the second round, is still chasing the first title of the year.

If Djokovic does not reach the semifinals in Rome, he will give up the top spot to Daniel Medvedev for the second time this year.

But the Serbs got the job against Karatesev, whom he defeated in Belgrade last year.

“He is a very strong man, he is basically very strong. You never know him. If he feels the ball, it can be very dangerous because he is very close to the line and puts pressure on his opponent, “said Djokovic.

“Although he was missing a lot of balls today. He gave me a break twice… I will take that win, it’s a straight set win against a good opponent. “

Djokovic at one point gets the crowd at their feet, runs from one end of the field to the other, shaking and wrapping a terrific shot into the net before opening the field to win.

“Of course the fans are looking for it – energy and excitement, they’re looking for a fight. They want to see some good tennis, ”said the 34-year-old with a smile.

“We had some good points today. It’s always great to play tennis in the Colosseum. “

Earlier, 2020 runner-up Diego Schwartzman defeated Miomi Kekmanovic 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) with two match points to advance to the second round where David Goffin defeated 11th seed Hubert Hurkaj 7-6 (8) 7. – 6 (2).