Rome: Former world number one Novak Djokovic said Monday he felt reassured to be back playing on the familiar red clay of Rome as he dispatched Alexandr Dolgopolov in straight sets in the first round.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion, who won the last of his 68 ATP titles at the Canadian Open in 2016, has slipped to 18th in the world, his lowest ranking in 12 years as he struggles with a nightmare elbow injury.
But he got off to a comfortable start in his bid for a fifth ATP Italian Open title at the Foro Italico, taking 55 minutes to oust Ukrainian Dolgopolov in the first round.
"Rome has always been a place where I felt good, where I received a lot of support, where I played well, and had a lot of great results," said Djokovic.
"And today's match encourages me and gives me reason to believe that it can be a good week for me.
"Obviously I would like to go all the way but, at the same time, looking at my results I have to be a little more modest with expectations and see where it takes me."
The 11th-seeded Serb has reached eight of the last ten finals in Rome, including the past two years, and won four titles -- most recently in 2015.
Djokovic broke 54th-ranked Dolgopolov three times in the opening set, with another break in the second helping him wrap up the match.
He next plays either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Filippo Baldi, both qualifiers, before a potential third round meeting with US eighth seed John Isner.
And the 30-year-old said his focus was on the French Open where he won his last Grand Slam title in 2016.
"The French Open is where I want to play my best tennis. That's the big goal for this part of the season," added Djokovic.