Novak Djokovic seals Rome win but fitness fears raised after stomach problems

Novak Djokovic got his Rome Masters title defence off to a winning start on Friday night. The top seed defeated Tomas Etcheverry 7-6(5) 6-2. There were still some concerns during the match as Djokovic was seen holding his stomach and took a tablet during the first set, raising fears over an illness. But he recovered to book his spot in the third round.

Djokovic was playing for the first time since missing the Madrid Open with an elbow injury. The Serb was looking to bounce back after starting the clay season with a 2-2 record but found himself broken by the world No 61 in the opening game.

The top seed then immediately put on the elbow support he had previously been seen wearing in Monte Carlo and Banja Luka, raising some questions about the state of the injury after claiming it was “all good”. But he was able to get the break back, drawing level at 3-3.

Djokovic then had two set points at 5-4 but Etcheverry held on to keep himself alive. And there were concerns that world No 1 was feeling unwell as he could be seen holding his stomach later in the set.

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The 35-year-old also spit something at the back of the court before members of his team passed him a tablet during the next changeover. The set went to a tiebreak with both men trading mini-breaks until Djokovic had another set point on his serve at 6-5, and he closed out a 74-minute first set 7-6(5).

Djokovic carried his momentum straight into the second set by breaking in the opening game. After a tight first set, Etcheverry started to fade away as the Serb broke for a second time to serve for the match at 5-2. And he closed out a straight-set victory to kick off his title defence.

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Djokovic will now face Grigor Dimitrov in the third round after the world No 33 beat Stan Wawrinka earlier on Friday. The pair have faced off 11 times in the past with the Serb losing just one match at the 2013 Madrid Open.

A six-time champion in Rome, Djokovic has never lost before the quarter-final stage since making his debut at the event in 2007.

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