World number one Novak Djokovic overcame a “strange” lengthy rain delay to beat American Taylor Fritz 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) to reach the third round of the Italian Open on Tuesday.
Title holder Djokovic waited three hours to finish off the match despite Fritz’s efforts in the second set.
“It was a really strange match, to play in the rain, it was difficult,” the Serb said.
“It possibly helped me because the play was slower, and he has a good serve. He played really well.
“In these circumstances, you don’t know how much time it will go on for. If you have to eat, rest, or not. You have to do what feels best for you,” he added.
Djokovic, 33, playing his second tournament since winning his ninth Australian Open in February, will play Cameron Norrie or Alejandro Davidovich for a place in the quarter-finals.
Elsewhere, Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime beat last year’s runner up Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 6-3 and will face either Federico Delbonis or David Goffin, who will meet early on Wednesday.
Earlier, sixteenth seed Grigor Dimitrov crashed out in the first round when he was beaten in straight sets by Spanish qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
The world number 48 saved two set points in the second set as he dismissed the 2014 semi-finalist Dimitrov 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) to win in one hour and 43 minutes.
Tenth seed Roberto Bautista Agut booked his place in the second round with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 win over American Tommy Paul.
On the women’s side, Argentinian Nadia Podoroska, ranked 44 in the world, assured herself of a second round meeting with Serena Williams, playing her first event since the Australian Open, when she came from a set down to beat German Laura Siegemund 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-1.
Madison Keys won the battle of the Americans when she overcame Sloane Stephens 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
NADAL ON OLYMPICS
Two-time Olympic champion Rafael Nadal on Tuesday became the latest top tennis player to admit that he had not yet decided whether he would participate in the Tokyo Games this summer, still giving himself time to decide according to “circumstances”.
The 34-year-old Spaniard won gold in the singles in Beijing in 2008, adding another gold in the doubles with Marc Lopez in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
“In a normal world I would never consider missing the Olympics. There is no doubt about that,” he said at a press conference ahead of his opening match at the Italian Open.
“In a normal year, I know my schedule almost 100 percent from January 1 until the end of the season. This year is a little bit different, no?
“We need to be flexible. We need to adapt to the things that are happening. I don’t know, I can’t give you an accurate answer. Sorry.”
Nadal is the latest top tennis star to voice his concerns about the Tokyo Games.
On Monday, Serena Williams said she was undecided about going to the Olympics while Japanese stars Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori have both raised concerns about whether Tokyo should be hosting the Games at all.
“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” Osaka told the BBC.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.” The Olympics, postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus, are due to run from July 23 to August 8.*AFP