Novak Djokovic, jostled during a set, and Iga Swiatek, in bulldozer mode, resumed victory on Friday on the clay court of Rome where they are the defending champions.
A fortnight before Roland-Garros (May 28-June 11), “Nole”, with protection around his right elbow, has not raised all questions about his state of form after three weeks away from the courts, since his misstep in the quarter-finals of the Banja Luka tournament.
But the six-time winner of the Rome tournament, still world No.1 for a few days before being dislodged after the tournament by the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, provided the essential against the Argentinian Tomas Etcheverry (61st) 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, for his entry into contention in the 2nd round.
He suffered in the first set, on clay where he had a little trouble getting his bearings, but took the right shots at key moments, especially in the decisive game. Then he played his tennis in a much more controlled second round, under the eyes of AS Roma coach José Mourinho.
“It’s not the level we wanted yet. He started better than me, but the second set was much better. I’m happy with the way I ended the game,” commented the Serb, for whom ” Rome has always been the tournament it (needs) to prepare for Roland-Garros”.
He will meet in the 3rd round the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov (33rd), who defeated veteran Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
Alcaraz, the one “Djoko” sees as “the man to beat” at the moment on ocher, in the absence of injured Rafael Nadal, will make his debut in Rome on Saturday against his compatriot Albert Ramos (72nd).
The other tenors of the men’s table held their rank like Casper Ruud, Holger Rune or Jannik Sinner, all qualified in two sets.
However, this has not been the case in the women’s tournament since the start of the WTA 1000, with the notable exception of the double title holder and world No.1 Iga Swiatek, who inflicted a scathing 6-0, 6- 0 to the Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (42nd).
“I’m happy to be back, I have a lot of confidence here, but every tournament is a new journey, you have to stay focused,” said the 21-year-old Polish.
The winner of the last Roland-Garros will continue her preparation for Paris against the Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko (68th), in the 3rd round.
The Pole appears more than ever as the great favorite in a tournament which lost a new headliner on Friday with the misstep of the finalist of the last edition, Ons Jabeur (seeded N.4).
The Tunisian lost to the Spaniard Paula Badosa (35th in the world), 6-1, 6-4. Jabeur returned to competition after a tear in a left calf which forced her to retire in the semi-finals in Stuttgart on April 22 and then gave up defending her title at the WTA 1000 in Madrid.
“We know each other very well, I’m very happy with my performance,” commented Paulo Badosa, 25, who will face Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk (27th in the world) in the next round.
The women’s table had already lost Thursday the world N.2 Aryna Sabalenka, the N.3 Jessica Pegula and the 2019 winner and ex-N.1 Karolina Pliskova.