Novak Djokovic built on last week’s encouraging showing in Madrid to beat British qualifier Aljaz Bedene 7-6(2) 6-2 in his opening match at the Italian Open on Tuesday.
The Serb has struggled for form this year and recently split with his entire coaching staff but his game looked in good order against Bedene on Court Centrale in Rome.
He was pushed hard in the opening set by 55th-ranked Bedene and had to recover an early service break but he stepped on the gas in the second set to cruise through to the third round.
“A little bit of a slow start, but Bedene is the kind of player that gives you good rhythm,” world number two Djokovic, beaten in the Madrid semis by Rafael Nadal, said.
“I had some good exchanges, some good games with rallies and it felt right, especially in the second set.”
Later on Tuesday top seed and defending champion Andy Murray faces a tough opener against home favourite Fabio Fognini.