Novak Djokovic said Aslan Karatsev has “the biggest calves we have in tennis” after breezing past the 28-year-old 6-3 6-2 in his opening match at the Italian Open.
Djokovic, who has only reached one final this year and that ended in defeat to Andrey Rublev at the Serbia Open, needed just 71 minutes to overcome Karatsev on Centre Court to record his 997th career win.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner was in good spirits in his post-match interview as he spoke about “very strong guy” Karatsev.
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“He probably has the biggest calves we have in tennis,” he joked.
“Very strong guy. Solid from the baseline. You never know with him if he’s feeling the ball.
“He can be very dangerous because he stays so close to the line and puts pressure on his opponents.
“He was missing a lot of balls, though. He gave me a couple of breaks but I will take this win. It’s a straight sets win against a quality opponent and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”
Djokovic, who has never lost before the quarter-finals in Rome, broke in Karatsev’s opening service game when the Russian whipped a vicious forehand into the net. But Karatsev broke back immediately to get the pair level on serve.
A misjudged smash at the net from Karatsev handed Djokovic an opportunity to go 5-3 up and the Serb took it after another unforced error before serving out the 42-minute first set.
Momentum was firmly with Djokovic and he broke Karatsev again in the first game of the second set. He converted his fourth break point of the game when Karatsev crashed a forehand into the net.
After Djokovic recovered a break point to move into a 2-0 lead, he was gifted his sixth successive game. On Karatsev’s serve, the Russian powered a forehand off the net cord which flew out.
Karatsev clawed a game back on his serve after six minutes, but Djokovic comfortably held his next two service games to move into the third round. The world number one will face either Stanislas Wawrinka or Laslo Djere next.
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