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Italy's Fabio Fognini returns the ball to Britain's Andy Murray during their match at the Italian Open. Image Credit: AP

Rome: Fabio Fognini edged out Andy Murray in a battle of veteran tennis dads to reach the Italian Open second round on Wednesday.

Fognini, ranked outside of the top 100 for the first time in 14 years, came through 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 against his fellow 35-year-old.

Controlled final set

Former No 7 Fognini delighted his home crowd with a controlled final set serving display in which he conceded just three points.

It was his fifth win in nine career meetings with Murray.

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Andy Murray looks dejected after his loss against

The Italian maverick, like Murray a father of three, fired 46 winners past the former world No 1 and three-time major winner in a first round tie, which stretched to almost three hours.

Next up for Fognini is a clash with Miomir Kecmanovic while 42nd-ranked Murray, the 2016 champion in Rome, licks his wounds after celebrating his first title since 2019 at the Aix-en-Provence Challenger on Sunday.

Novak Djokovic will begin his bid to retain the Italian Open title against Tomas Etcheverry after the 61st-ranked Argentine beat Luca Van Assche of France in the first round 7-6 (9/7), 6-3.

Tough start

Djokovic comes into the tournament he has won six times recovering from an elbow injury and set to lose top spot in the world rankings to Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz just needs to play a match in the Italian capital to return to the world No 1 ranking ahead of the French Open, which starts later this month.

Djokovic won his record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January but missed the American hard-court swing in March due to his refusal to be vaccinated.

The 35-year-old has endured a tough start to the European clay-court season, being eliminated in the last 16 at the Monte Carlo Masters, in the quarterfinals at Banja Luka and then pulling out of Madrid.

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Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in action during his round of 128 match against Belarus' Ilya Ivashka. Image Credit: Reuters

Wawrinka advances

Veteran Stan Wawrinka will face 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov in the last 64, the three-time Grand Slam winner easing past Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 6-2.

Wawrinka, 38, and playing in the Italian capital for the 18th time, hit 26 winners and saved the one break point he faced.

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Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko celebrates after winning her match against fellow Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. Image Credit: Reuters

“I was ready for it. I am playing well. It was a good first match and I am really happy to get through again,” said Wawrinka, who was runner-up to Djokovic in Rome in 2008.

All-Ukrainian clash

The former world No 3 now down at 84 in the rankings added: “I have been working hard to get to this level. This year I am playing much better, but I need to win more matches.”

In the women’s event, Lesia Tsurenko won an all-Ukrainian clash, beating Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-3.