ROME — Novak Djokovic behaved better Wednesday in his first match since being defaulted from the U.S. Open.
The top-ranked Serb was mostly courteous with the chair umpire and had no interaction with the line judges during a 6-3, 6-2 win over local wild-card entry Salvatore Caruso in his opening match at the Italian Open.
Also Wednesday, nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal made a solid return to competition after a seven-month absence by beating U.S. Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1.
Nadal had not played a match since winning a title in Acapulco, Mexico, in February — having decided not to play the U.S. Open over travel concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Djokovic’s performance came in sharp contrast to the scene in New York 10 days ago, when he was disqualified for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball. Djokovic said earlier this week that the incident taught him “a big lesson.”
“I was actually looking forward to (playing again) as soon as possible after what happened in New York,” Djokovic said. “Because I feel like the sentiment on the court needs to be positive, and I need to kind of remove anything that can possibly cause any kind of issues to me — if there is something.”
When the umpire came down to inspect a ball mark on the red clay early in the first set and made an overrule in Caruso’s favour, Djokovic just replied, “Yup,” and rubbed out the mark with his red sneaker.
When Caruso impressed him — the Italian hit 13 winners to Djokovic’s 12 — Djokovic said, “Bravo.”
“It was a hot day against Caruso who already played three matches here, a clay court specialist. It was a very good test for me,” Djokovic said. “I’m very pleased with