Rome, Italy – Two-time champion and two-time runner-up Novak Djokovic and two-time finalist Roger Federer were a pair of easy second- round winners Tuesday at the Italian Masters tennis event, a clay-court French Open tune-up.
The world No. 1 star Djokovic blew past Spanish qualifier Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-3, while the second-seeded former top-ranked great Federer drubbed helpless Italian wild card Potito Starace, 6-1, 6-2 in a mere 51 minutes at Foro Italico.
"It was a good performance for a start, although I know I can do better," Djokovic said.
The Australian Open champion Djokovic, who has appeared in the final here four of the last five years, lost to six-time winner Rafael Nadal in last year's blockbuster Rome finale. The Wimbledon titlist Federer was the Rome runner-up in 2003 and 2006.
"I feel the way I want to feel," Federer said after beating Starace. "I'm happy that from start to finish I was able to control the outcome of the match."
Also in the second round, sixth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych defeated Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin 6-4, 6-0 and seventh-seeded former U.S. Open champ Juan Martin del Potro whipped Russian qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3, 6-2.
Ninth-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet handled rising Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-4 and big-serving South African Kevin Anderson knocked out 11th-seeded Croat Marin Cilic 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) in the round of 32. Dimitrov stunned the mighty Djokovic in the second round at last week's Masters event in Madrid.
In first-round action in Rome involving seeds, Frenchman Julien Benneteau upset No. 12 Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, Russian Mikhail Youzhny took out No. 13 Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-3, and surging Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, seeded 15th this week, fought back to beat Argentine qualifier Carlos Berlocq 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. The 2008 Rome runner-up Wawrinka reached the final in his previous two events, both on clay, beating David Ferrer in Portugal and losing to the great Nadal in Madrid last week.
Also in round one, Spaniard Fernando Verdasco edged out Argentine Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 3-6, 6-3; Serb Viktor Troicki overcame Czech lucky-loser Lukas Rosol 3-6, 6-1, 6-4; Frenchman Jeremy Chardy came back to beat Spain's Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4); and Frenchman Gilles Simon outlasted wild card and Italian favorite Filippo Volandri 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
The second round will conclude Wednesday, including matches for third- seeded U.S. Open champion Andy Murray, the fourth-seeded 2010 Rome runner-up Ferrer and the red-hot fifth-seeded Nadal, who will meet Italian crowd favorite Fabio Fognini.
Nadal has appeared in seven finals in as many events this year, capturing five titles, including a Masters shield in Madrid last week. The amazing Spaniard is the all-time leader with 23 Masters championships.
The 2013 Rome winner will take home $660,000.