Nole started hunt for a seventh Rome Masters title.

World no.1 Novak Djokovic kicked off his Italian Open title defence with a 7-6 (5) 6-2 victory over Tomas Martin Etcheverry to advance into the third round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Friday evening.

Making his 17th appearance in Rome, the defending champion moved past the Argentine in one hour and 51 minutes.

Despite a slow start in the first set, the 35-year-old Serbian star eventually found his rhythm and earned his 18th tour-level win of the season.

Novak dropped his serve in the first game, but broke back in the sixth to level. The top seed won four consecutive points from 3-5 down in the tie-break to wrap up the opening set after 75 minutes of play.

Djokovic grabbed an early break in the second set, and broke once more in the seventh game. He served it out to love to seal his place in R3 .

Match statistics: aces (1-4), double faults (0-2), winners (26-13), unforced errors (30-20), total points won (72-57).

“Still not the desired level, still finding the shots and finding that groove on the court,” Novak said in his on-court interview. “It’s always a little bit tricky playing someone for the first time. He’s a clay-court specialist. He started better than I did, I started pretty slow, but I found my groove towards the end of the first. The second set was good, especially the last three or four games. I’m happy with the way I closed out the match.”

Novak next faces Grigor Dimitrov (BUL, 26, H2H 10-1) who beat Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-6.

The six-time Rome titlist is aiming for a record-extending 39th Masters 1000 crown.

Photo: Profimedia

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