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Djokovic returns from injury with victory in Rome

ESPN staff
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Novak Djokovic missed the Madrid Open with the wrist injury © Getty Images
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Novak Djokovic marked his return from a wrist injury with a victory over Radek Stepanek at the Rome Masters to book his spot in the last 16.

The world No.2 suffered the problem at the Monte Carlo Masters in April and was forced to withdraw from last week's Madrid Open.

However, the Serb showed no signs any discomfort after beating Stepanek 6-3 7-5 in his opening second-round match in Rome.

But, despite securing a 10th win in 11 career meetings over Stepanek in an hour and 37 minutes, Djokovic encountered another problem in the match.

"It was one of the most difficult conditions I've played in in my life," he said. "Playing when it's very windy on the court, especially on clay, the clay gets in your eyes.

"It was very difficult to get any kind of rhythm. Stepanek is a very experienced player, so that's why I had to be super-focused every game because I knew he had this variety of shots.

Djokovic, a two-time champion in the Italian capital, was broken in the first game. However, Stepanek failed to consolidate the advantage from 40-0 in the second game as Djokovic immediately reclaimed the break.

Djokovic broke for a second time in the sixth game to go 4-2 in front courtesy of a cross-court backhand winner. He then went one game from taking the set after firing a forehand winner down the line.

Stepanek reduced the deficit to two games at 5-3, but Djokovic sealed the opening set by losing one point on his serve in the ninth game.

Djokovic twice let breaks of serve slip in the second set, but was able to break in the 11th game to go 6-5 up after Stepanek produced a double fault. Djokovic then clinched victory on serve to end the brave resistance of Stepanek.

"It was a little bit frustrating when I dropped serve twice in the second set, but the positive is that I managed to stay mentally tough until the end and win," Djokovic added.

Monte Carlo Masters champion Stanislas Wawrinka also made a winning start to his campaign in Rome, with the Swiss comfortably beating world No.98 Pere Riba 6-0 6-3.

Fifth seed David Ferrer eased past Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1 6-2 in an hour and seven minutes, while eighth seed Milos Raonic beat 6-3 7-6(5) Simone Bolelli to pick up his first win at the Rome Masters on his fourth appearance at the tournament.

Tommy Haas emerged victorious in a final set to knock out home favourite Andreas Seppi 6-1 4-6 6-3.

Santiago Giraldo, who reached the quarter-finals of Madrid after knocking out Andy Murray, was forced to retire from 6-4 2-0 behind against former Queen's champion Marin Cilic.

Madrid quarter-finalist Ernests Gulbis also benefited from a retirement against Alejandro Falla after winning the first set 6-1.

Stanislas Wawrinka was a comfortable winner © Getty Images
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