Novak Djokovic opens Australian Open return with 1st-spherical win

MELBOURNE, Australia — The supportive indicators and dozens of Serbian flags and loud chants of Novak Djokovic‘s nickname stuffed Rod Laver area, offering a warmth welcome marking his return to the Australian Open — a match he has dominated up to now however may not enter a yr in the past.

Djokovic acknowledged the greeting with a quick wave of his left hand when he stepped out onto the court docket at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, then obtained proper down to enterprise by having fun with pretty properly and solely briefly exhibiting a contact of hassle from the balky left hamstring that was closely taped.

He started the predominant-spherical match with an ace at one hundred twenty five mph and a love maintain, took administration of that set with a 12-level run and was on his decision to a 6-three, 6-4, 6-zero victory over seventy fifth-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena that accomplished after midnight.

“Unbelievable ambiance. thanks rather a lot for staying this late, everyone. additionally, thanks for giving me such a welcoming and a reception I can solely dream of,” Djokovic informed the gang in an on-court docket interview. “i truly really feel very blissful that i am again in Australia and that i am again right here on the court docket the place I had the largest success in my profession.”

Djokovic’s participation is little question thought-about one of many chief storylines of the predominant Grand Slam match of 2023. that is as a consequence of Djokovic, 35, by no means obtained to play a stage final season at Melbourne Park, the positioning of 9 of his predominant championships, as a consequence of his visa was blocked and he was deported from Australia after a authorized saga tied to his lack of any vaccination in the direction of COVID-19.

He by no means did get the photographs and in addition missed the US Open ensuing from it. however Australia’s authorities has since relaxed coronavirus-associated restrictions, permitting Djokovic to return to the nation, and in addition waived a rule that would have stopped him from getting in for three years following a visa revocation. He has insisted that whole episode in January 2022 deeply affected him however that he would not maintain a grudge; there definitely did not appear to be any laborious feelings in the direction of him Tuesday.

This was not basically Djokovic at his biggest doable, and he appeared to level some frustration early on when he stored evident and muttering inside the course of coach Goran Ivanisevic and the the rest of his entourage inside the stands. however Djokovic produced strong enough tennis to take the preliminary step in the direction of what he hopes will most possible be a twenty second Grand Slam title to tie rival Rafael Nadal‘s report for most possible the most in tennis historic previous by a particular person.

Djokovic, who has spent extra weeks at No. 1 inside the ATP rankings than anyone, additionally has an alternative to return to that spot after the upcoming two weeks; the particular person presently occupying that perch, Carlos Alcaraz, is sitting out the Australian Open with a leg damage.

In a match that ended after 1 a.m., the second-seeded man, two-time predominant finalist Casper Ruud, obtained previous Tomas Machac 6-three, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-three.

Earlier inside the day, Andrey Rublev beat wild-card entry Dominic Thiem 6-three, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the second spherical.

Thiem, a runner-up on the Australian Open in 2020 and the US Open winner the identical yr, missed a lot of 2021 ensuing from accidents however has recovered from outdoors the biggest 350 final yr to a spot simply contained in the biggest one hundred. He was given a wild-card entry by match organizers.

“when you see it is a should to play in the direction of Dominic, you acknowledge it is not going to be simple. i do know he is going by way of some not simple instances so I want him all of the very biggest to return again to the extent he is most possible as quick as doable,” Rublev said.

Rublev will subsequent play both Australian qualifier Max Purcell or Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland.

Thiem had remedy to his stomach muscular tissues midway by way of the second set however said it was not critical and he was not disheartened by his efficiency.

“This match would not change something, as a consequence of I simply had a very strong opponent,” he said. “I hope that I can enhance the outcomes on the South American clay.”

Later Tuesday, Andy Murray, 35, produced his biggest victory in years with a 6-three, 6-three, 4-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (10-6) triumph throughout better than 4½ hours in the direction of Matteo Berrettini.

“i will be feeling this — tonight and tomorrow,” Murray said. “however proper now i am simply unbelievably blissful. Very blissful with myself.”

It was the predominant victory for the three-time predominant champion over a extreme-20 opponent at a Grand Slam match since 2017.

Murray subsequent will meet Thanasi Kokkinakis or Fabio Fognini. Their match was suspended for the evening time with Kokkinakis 5 factors from worthwhile.

Grigor Dimitrov, a semifinalist in Melbourne in 2017, beat Aslan Karatsev 7-6 (three), 7-5, 6-2. he’ll sort out Laslo Djere inside the second spherical.

completely different males advancing Tuesday included No. eight Taylor Fritz, No. 9 Holger Rune and No. 12 Alexander Zverev.

The associated Press contributed to this report.


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