No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal did not appear to show any signs of rust in his first competitive tour match for 200 days. He cruised past compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta for the loss of just two games as he started his bid to win a record 36th ATP Masters 1000 title.
Also in the hunt for that record is World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, keen to move on from a year dogged with controversy (US Open default, ill-fated Adria Tour, formation of the Professional Tennis Players Association breakaway union). He also had a comfortable win, against Italian wildcard Salvatore Caruso.
In the battle of the ATP NextGen champions, Italian wildcard Jannik Sinner ousted the No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. It had been plain sailing for the Italian but Tsitsipas fought back to level the match, before Sinner regained control
Top seed Simona Halep had to work for her opening win, coming back from a break behind to Italian wildcard Jasmine Paolini. She admitted to feeling a bit tight at the start, as she continued the form that saw her win her last two tournaments in Dubai and Prague.
At the other side of the draw, defending champion Karolina Pliskova got the better of compatriot Barbora Strycova in straight sets.
No rest for the US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka – who flew into Rome and picked up in form where she left off in the US, with a tight, straight sets win over Venus Williams, avenging her opening round loss to the American in Lexington. Following that defeat, Azarenka went on an 11-match winning streak, which ended at the hands of Naomi Osaka in the US Open final.
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