Four-time champion Djokovic is playing his first tournament since his disqualification at the US Open and a win here would be a record 36th Masters title for the Serbian.
The 33-year-old claimed the win in front of 1000 people who were allowed in the stands. Djokovic had to battle to win the first set, saving two set points when Ruud served for the first set at 5-4.
Djokovic’s recent disciplinary troubles however continued with as he was given a warning for obscenity midway through the match. “I don’t take anything for granted, even after 15 years on the tour, I still enjoy it,” he said.
“I still have a hunger for the titles and putting myself in a position to fight for the title is exactly where I want to be.”
World no.2 Rafael Nadal was on Saturday stunned 6-2, 7-5 by eighth seen Diego Schwartzman. Nadal, a nine-time champion in Rome, is aiming for a record extending 13th French Open title later in the month.