High-flying world No. 1 star and reigning champion Novak Djokovic needed all threes sets to capture his opening match Tuesday at the $4.335 million Italian Open tennis event.
The Serbian stalwart outlasted Spanish clay-courter Nicolas Almagro 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3 at the beautiful Foro Italico.
Djokovic beat then reigning two-time champ Rafael Nadal in last year's marquee Rome finale. Nadal is a seven-time titlist here, while Djokovic owns three championships in the "Eternal City." The two greats have combined to win the last 10 titles at this Masters 1000 tournament.
The Australian Open and Wimbledon champ Djokovic already owns three Masters titles this year.
Also in the second round, eighth-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka overcame Argentine Juan Monaco 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and 15th-seeded South African Kevin Anderson was ahead of Philipp Kohlschreiber 3-0 in the first set when the German retired.
Thirteenth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga subdued American Sam Querrey 7-6 (8-6), 6-0, while 14th-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut whipped fellow countryman Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-3 in opening-round play.
In other first-round action, Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez ousted ninth- seeded U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-4, 6-3 and 11th-seeded Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez got past rising young Aussie Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). Kyrgios stunned Roger Federer at the Madrid Masters event last week.
Additional first-round wins came for Serb Viktor Troicki, Belgian David Goffin, Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci and Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov.