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Djokovic hit by bottle as Aussies take Roman blows too

Not even a bang on the head could ruin Novak Djokovic's businesslike return to action at the Italian Open on a day when Australia's challenge at the clay-court event took two more heavy blows.

In his first match for nearly a month, Djokovic took a little while to get into gear at the Foro Italico on Friday but once he did, the world No.1 was pretty ruthless in dispatching French qualifier Corentin Moutet 6-3 6-1 in their second-round meeting.

He only found any trouble after the match when he needed medical attention after accidentally getting knocked on the head by a metal water bottle while he was leaving the court, although organisers reported later that he was fine.

Meanwhile, as Jordan Thompson and Aleksandar Vukic both went down to comprehensive straight-set defeats, Alex de Minaur found himself in the not unfamiliar position of being the last Australian singles player standing before the competition event even enters its second week.

Djokovic, who's yet to win a tournament in 2024, dropped his first two service games a mite carelessly but the six-time Rome champion ended up looking pretty sharp as he aimed for a good run before opening the defence of his French Open title later in May.

"I haven't practised with a lefty in a while, so it took me a little bit of time to adjust to the different rotation on the balls," Djokovic said of his southpaw opponent Moutet. "The first four games were quite bad for me. … But then I played well."

The problems came afterwards when the water bottle fell out of the backpack of an autograph hunter as he was leaning over railings, trying to get Djokovic's signature.

"He received medical attention and has already left the Foro Italico to return to his hotel. His condition is not a cause for concern," tournament organisers said.

Earlier, he had been all smiles as he whacked 21 winners, while also laughing when, in the first game of the second set, the alarm on Moutet's phone began ringing, prompting the Frenchman to run over, grab it out of his bag and, jokingly, hold it up to his ears as if he was answering.

Laughs all round - and Moutet did then apologise.

There wasn't much to laugh about for the Australian challenge with, first, Olympic champion Alexander Zverev crushing Sydney's Vukic 6-0 6-4 and then Thompson, the national No.2, succumbing 6-1 6-3 to the Brazilian qualifier Thiago Monteiro.

Monteiro even left Thompson dumbfounded at one point with a spectacular, running tweener-lob as he took victory in just under an hour and a half.

The exit of the No.32 seed Thompson meant that, once again, all Australian hopes rest on world No.11 de Minaur, who will on Saturday open his account in a second-round match against tough Spanish clay-court specialist Roberto Carballes Baena, who knocked out Sydney's Chris O'Connell in the first round.

Shock of the day came with fifth seed Casper Ruud whitewashing Miomir Kecmanovic in the first set before the Serb, after a medical timeout late in the first set, returned to win 0-6 6-4 6-4.

No.11 seed Taylor Fritz defeated home favourite, wildcard Fabio Fognini, 6-3 6-4 while another American Ben Shelton looked good in eventually overpowering Pavel Kotov 4-6 6-3 6-4 to reach the third round in Rome for the first time.