Djokovic wins on Australian Open return

Djokovic wins on Australian Open return
Djokovic wins on Australian Open return

Africa-Press – Eritrea. Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic made a perfect return to the Australian Open as he beat Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets in the first round.

Djokovic, 35, began his quest for a men’s record-equalling 22nd major with a 6-3 6-4 6-0 win over the Spaniard.

The Serb received a warm reception on Rod Laver Arena in his first match at the tournament since his controversial deportation last year.

He will play Bolivian Hugo Dellien or French qualifier Enzo Couacaud next.

“I’m very happy I am back in Australia, and on the court where I had the biggest successes of my career,” Djokovic said.

“This court is the most special court and I couldn’t ask for a better start for the tournament.”

Djokovic was unable to compete at last year’s event after the Australian government cancelled his visa because of his Covid-19 vaccination status.

But the former world number one said the welcome he received during a practice match with home favourite Nick Kyrgios in Melbourne last week made him feel “emotional”.

The reigning Wimbledon champion is looking to make up for lost time as he pursues Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles, having also missed last year’s US Open because of the United States’ travel restrictions.

Once again receiving warm support from the crowd, Djokovic proceeded to expertly dismantle world number 75 Carballes Baena’s game in a little over two hours.

Although he warmed up for the first Slam of the year by winning the Adelaide title, Djokovic has been managing a hamstring injury and took to the court with heavy strapping on his upper left leg.

But he did not appear limited by the problem and, sparking into action to save three break points in the fifth game of the match, went on to demonstrate his class on his favourite court in a near-perfect third set which saw him lose just four points in the final six games.

It extended his remarkable winning streak at the Australian Open to 35 matches – a run stretching back to 2018 – and the manner of the victory suggests he will be difficult to stop once again.

Alexander Zverev claimed his first singles win since tearing several knee ligaments with a five-set victory over lucky loser Juan Pablo Varillas.

The German, who had surgery after injuring his right ankle in the French Open semi-finals in June, came through 4-6 6-1 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 against Peru’s Varillas.

“Whatever happens now, this tournament is a success for me,” Zverev said.

Zverev, 25, missed Wimbledon and the US Open after sustaining the injury in his match against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, only returning to the court for an exhibition in December.

He was on court for four hours against Varillas and will face American lucky loser Michael Mmoh or French qualifier Laurent Lokoli next.

Fifth seed Andrey Rublev beat 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem 6-3 6-4 6-2 as Austria’s wildcard Thiem continues his return from injury.

American eighth seed Taylor Fritz required four sets to beat Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, winning 6-4 6-2 4-6 7-5, while Danish ninth seed Holger Rune defeated Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic 6-2 6-3 6-4.

Spanish 14th seed Pablo Carreno Busta won 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 7-6 (7-3) against Argentine Pedro Cachin, and Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov overcame former semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev of Russia 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 6-2. Britons Andy Murray and Dan Evans were also among the winners on Tuesday.

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