ATP Rome Masters: Novak Djokovic makes winning return; Stanislas Wawrinka advances
Novak Djokovic made a winning return to action with a 6-3 7-5 victory against Radek Stepanek at the Rome Masters.
Last Updated: 13/05/14 10:57pm
The world No 2, whose last match was the loss to Roger Federer in the Monte Carlo semi-final on April 19, made a successful return since suffering with his right wrist problem.
On a rainy Tuesday in the Italian capital, Djokovic, a two-time champion at the Foro Italico, was not troubled too much during his second round victory with new coach Boris Becker watching on.
The Serb, who is competing in Rome for an eighth straight year, won his 25th match at the tournament against veteran Czech challenger Stepanek.
The end against Stepanek was a struggle however, comprising four consecutive breaks of serve before Djokovic took victory with a service return winner out wide after 97 minutes.
He will play Philipp Kohlschreiber in the last 16 after the German defeated Spain's Tommy Robredo 6-2 6-4.
Third-seeded Monte Carlo and Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka needed just 50 minutes to dispatch Spanish qualifier Pere Riba 6-0 6-3 to join Djokovic in the third round.
Also through is fifth seed David Ferrer and big-hitting Milos Raonic.
Spain's Ferrer cruised past Mikhail Kukushkin from Kazakhstan for the loss of just three games, 6-1 6-2, while eighth-seeded Raonic beat Italian challenger Simone Bolelli 6-3 7-6 (5).
In the men's first round, Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis both advanced after their Colombian opponents Santiago Giraldo and Alejandro Falla were both forced to retire.
German 15th seed Tommy Haas won his first Rome match since 2002, beating home hope Andreas Seppi 6-1 4-6 6-3.
Also, Dmitry Tursunov, Andrey Golubev and Kevin Anderson were all opening round winners.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer will be back on court eight days after the birth of his twin boys Leo and Lenny, as he competes due to some fortunate timing in the birth of his second set of twins.
"Since they were born last Tuesday, that gave me a better chance of playing Rome," said the Monte Carlo finalist, who plays on Wednesday against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. "I didn't want too much of a break.
"It doesn't matter if I play five matches or one match here. As long as I feel the pulse of things on the tour.
"Of course I hope to win my first-round match, but at the moment I have totally different priorities."
Defending champion Rafael Nadal is preparing to face one of the biggest annual changes on the clay when he starts three days after winning another Madrid title.
"Yes it's a big change (from Madrid altitude to sea-level Rome), but when you are winning it is a lot easier," said the top-seeded Spaniard. "You always need time to adjust.
"It's nothing crazy, you must work on how you hit the ball. The ball flies more in Madrid (at 800 metres) and you have less control. In Rome you have to hit harder."
Andy Murray, who faces a potential quarter-final date against Nadal, begins his campaign against Spain's Marcel Granollers.
Watch the Rome Masters live on Sky Sports this week