Rome:Novak Djokovic overcame a lapse midway through the first set and started off the defense of his Rome Masters title by beating Albert Montanes 7-6 (5), 6-0.
Djokovic, who needs to win the clay-court tournament again to hold on to the No. 3 ranking, wasted a 5-2 lead and was broken while serving for the first set at 5-3. After missing three straight forehands to fall behind 4-2 in the tiebreaker, the Serb slammed his racket onto the clay.
After the outburst, Djokovic regained his focus and won four straight points to take control of the tiebreaker, then cruised through the second set in 25 minutes.
Earlier this month, Djokovic lost to top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the final of another important clay-court tournament, the Monte Carlo Masters, where he was the only player to take a set from the Spaniard.
After Monte Carlo, Djokovic began working with Thomas Muster's old physical trainer, Gebhard Phil-Gritsch.
Before his match, Djokovic put on an impression of Italian entertainer Fiorello, walking onto the court with a gray wig. The match started late due to several rain delays at the Foro Italico and finished early this morning.
Earlier, Tommy Robredo rallied to beat two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the first round.
Safin was broken when he served for the match at 5-4 in the second set and the Russian didn't even bother to move when the 13th-seeded Robredo hit a returnable serve to close the match out.
"At the end of the third set, I knew that if I was tough mentally I could beat him," Robredo said. "It was a great comeback."
The start of the match was delayed for nearly two hours by rain, then was interrupted a further 2 hours with Safin ahead 4-2 in the first set.
The 20th-ranked Safin dictated play at the start with his powerful groundstrokes, but began to make more mistakes as the match wore on, finishing with 39 unforced errors to Robredo's 38.
Safin led 36-27 in winners but the former top-ranked player has still not advanced past the third round this year.
Both players slipped and fell on occasion due to the slippery conditions.
"The shoes would pick up so much clay that it was like ice skating," Robredo said. "There was no grip at all."
Robredo leads the tour with 17 wins on clay this year. He won clay-court titles in February in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is coming off a quarterfinal appearance in Barcelona, Spain.
Robredo will next face Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, who also came back from a set down, eliminating Simone Bolelli of Italy 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.
Andreas Seppi of Italy eliminated Sam Querrey of the United States 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, while 28th-ranked Mardy Fish, the last American in the draw, defeated Igor Andreev of Russia 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2).
Andy Roddick is taking a break from the tour after getting married, and 14th-seeded James Blake was eliminated in straight sets by Romanian qualifier Victor Crivoi on Monday.
Seppi will next face three-time Rome champion Nadal, while Fish will play sixth-seeded Fernando Verdasco.
Two matches on outer courts were suspended due to darkness. Florent Serra of France led 16th-seeded Radek Stepanek 6-5 in the first set and Paul-Henri Mathieu of France led 11th-seeded David Ferrer 6-3, 0-1.
Andy Murray's match against Argentine qualifier Juan Monaco was postponed until Wednesday. The Rome Masters is a key clay-court warmup for the French Open, which starts May 25.