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Djokovic begins title defence with win over Fritz, Muguruza advances

Dimitrov crashed out in the first round when he was beaten in straight sets by Spanish qualifier Davidovich Fokina

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Novak Djokovic began his Italian Open title defense in style with a 6-3, 7-6(5) win over Taylor Fritz on a rainy Tuesday in Rome as all other remaining matches have been cancelled including Daniil Medvedev’s showdown with Aslan Karatsev.

Djokovic and Fritz’s most recent encounter was a five-set batle in the third round of the Australian Open, but this time Djokovic came out sharp. The Serbian broke in Fritz’s first service game, and made 70 per cent of his first serves in the opening set to comfortabl­y close it out.

The second set began in nearly identical fashion with Djokovic breaking in the first game to establish early dominance. The World No. 1 had to step his level up to save a two break points at 4-3, but then Fritz went for broke on Djokovic’s next service game at 5-4 and was rewarded for it by evening out the match. Ater already playing most of the match in rainy conditions, play was stopped at 5-5.

When they returned to the court three hours later, both players held serve comfortabl­y and Djokovic closed out the win on his first match point in the tie-break.

Djokovic is 4-2 since winning his 17th major at the Australian Open ater a third-round exit in MonteCarlo and a semi-final appearance in Belgrade.

DAVIDOVICH FOKINA SAILS: Sixteenth seed Grigor Dimitrov crashed out of the tournament in the first round on Tuesday 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 semifinali­st 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, according to ATP.

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 batle of the Americans when she overcame Sloane Stephens 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Former World No.1 Garbiñe Muguruza claimed a swit opening win over lucky loser Patricia Maria Tig, while Veronika Kudermetov­a continued her solid clay-court season with an upset of Elise Mertens at the Internazio­nali BNL d’italia.

No.12 seed Garbiñe Muguruza overcame both the rain and a last-minute change of opponent as she swept to a second-round spot at the Internazio­nali BNL d’italia on Tuesday.

MUGURUZA BEAT MARIA: Former World No.1 Muguruza defeated lucky loser Patricia Maria Tig, 6-1, 6-2, in just over an hour, as the Spaniard improved to a superb 22-6 on the season.

“It was a weird day,” Muguruza said in her post-match press conference. “I woke up sunny, had an opponent. Then it turned out I had another opponent and it was raining the whole match. We had a litle bit of everything!

“But, Rome, it’s such a familiar tournament. I played here so many times, I’ve had nice matches. I love this clay, the red clay. It’s familiar to me. Just looking forward to get as many matches as possible.”

Muguruza, a three-time Rome semifinali­st (including last year) was slated to face last week’s Madrid semifinali­st Anastasia Pavlyuchen­kova today, but the Russian withdrew from the event due to an abdominal injury.

Thus, World No.64 Tig, who lost to Christina Mchale in qualifying, was put up against Muguruza. The Romanian is an extremely capable customer on clay, having won her first WTA singles title on the surface in Istanbul last year, but could not match Muguruza on the day.

Muguruza won nearly 80 percent of points returning Tig’s first serve and converted six of her eight break points in the clash to romp to victory. Muguruza had 20 winners to 11 unforced errors, while Tig was undone by 24 unforced errors in the affair.

Ater an early exchange of breaks to 2-1, Muguruza took command from there as a drizzle began to fall. Having surged ahead to 4-1, Muguruza kept pressure on Tig with smothering groundstro­kes, and used a deep return to break the Romanian again for 5-1. A love service hold, punctuated by an ace, followed, and Muguruza found herself up by a set.

 ?? Associated Press ?? Novak Djokovic plays a return shot against Taylor Fritz (unseen) during their Italian Open match in Rome on Tuesday.
Associated Press Novak Djokovic plays a return shot against Taylor Fritz (unseen) during their Italian Open match in Rome on Tuesday.

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