at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Rome - Novak Djokovic was back on top form as he brushed aside rising Australian talent Bernard Tomic 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round of the Rome Masters on Tuesday.
While Andy Murray narrowly avoided defeat on his 25th birthday and there were struggles for Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova in the women's event, Djokovic looked every inch the world number one on his way to a confident victory.
Dressed in matching shirt and shorts with the colours of the Serbia flag down one side, Djokovic took just 69 minutes to see off Tomic and erase the memories of his quarterfinal defeat on the blue clay of Madrid.
The manner of his victory was in stark contrast to that of Murray, who had to battle from 3-1 down in the final set to beat Argentina's David Nalbandian for his place in round three.
Britain's world number four, a semi-finalist here last year, romped through the first set but had to dig deep in the third to claim a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory.
“After the last couple of weeks I have had, I am so happy to win,” said Murray, who missed Madrid with a back injury.
“Getting the break back immediately in the third was important and I got a bit lucky at the end but I went for it and sometimes you make your luck.”
The luck came on a dead net cord at 5-5 in the deciding set which gave him the break and he served out for victory before blowing out a candle on his birthday cake on court.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer, seeded fifth and sixth respectively, advanced but Gael Monfils, seeded 13, was beaten 7-5 6-3 by former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero.
In the women's draw, Madrid champion and ninth seed Serena Williams eased into the event with a 6-2 6-3 second round win over Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan.
Holder and second seed Maria Sharapova battled past American world number 36 Christina McHale 7-5 7-5 to reach the third round, having trailed 4-1 and 5-3 in the opening set.
“It was really about adjusting from Madrid,” the Russian told a news conference after setting up a third-round clash with either Ana Ivanovic of Serbia or Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler Espinosa.
“I made a few too many unforced errors at first and maybe I was going for too many lines but she was extremely consistent.
“I was a bit lucky to get out of the first set and the second set was close but she's definitely improved since the last time I played her. I'll have to improve in the next round too.”
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic, seeded fourth, also had to battle, recovering from a slow start to beat Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 7-5 6-4.
Former world number one Venus Williams, in her fourth tournament back since she was diagnosed with the energy-sapping Sjogren's Disease, reached round two with a 6-3 6-4 win over Simona Halep of Romania. - Reuters