Novak moves to last 16 in Rome

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No.2 seed Novak Djokovic opened his Internazionali BNL d’Italia campaign with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Radek Stepanek on Tuesday to reach the third round of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tennis tournament in Rome.

It was the first match for the Serb after Monte-Carlo semi-finals. He’s been sidelined for three weeks due to wrist injury.

Novak saved two of five break points and broke serve five times from 11 opportunities to secure victory over his Czech opponent in one hour and 37 minutes.

The 26-year-old Belgrade native improved to a 20-3 match record on the season.

“It was one of the most difficult conditions I’ve played in in my life,” said Djokovic. “Playing when it’s very windy on the court, especially on clay, the clay gets in your eyes. It was very difficult to get any kind of rhythm. Stepanek is a very experienced player, so that’s why I had to be super-focused every game because I knew he had this variety of shots. It was a little bit frustrating when I dropped serve twice in the second set, but the positive is that I managed to stay mentally tough until the end and win.”

Match statistics: aces (1-4), double faults (0-7), winners (22-22), unforced errors (9-27), total points won (77-60).

Novak will face Philipp Kohlschreiber (3-1 career record) in the third round on Thursday. The German defeated Tommy Robredo (ESP, 16) in straight sets.

The 2008 and 2011 champion has a 25-5 W/L record at Foro Italico. Last year, he finished quarter-finalist to Tomas Berdych.

Photo: Getty Images

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