Novak Djokovic opened the Australian Open comeback with a first round win

Melbourne, Australia – Supporting banners, dozens of Serbian flags and loud cheers Novak DjokovicHe filled Rod Laver Arena, giving a standing ovation marking his return to the Australian Open – a tournament he once dominated but was unable to enter a year ago.

Djokovic admitted to welcoming a quick left-hander when he took to the court at 10:30pm on Tuesday, then set to work by playing well and only briefly showing a hint of trouble from his left hamstring. strongly registered.

He started the first round match with a 125 mph jab and love, took control of that 12-point set and was on his way to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 win over 75. Roberto Karpeles Baena which ended after midnight.

“Unbelievable atmosphere. Thank you so much for staying up late, everyone. Also, thank you for giving me a welcome and a reception I can only dream of,” Djokovic told the crowd in an on-court interview. I’m very happy to be back in Australia and back here on the court where I’ve had the biggest success of my career. ”

Djokovic’s participation is one of the highlights of the first Grand Slam tournament of 2023. This is because Djokovic, 35, did not play a point last season at Melbourne Park, the site of nine of his major tournaments, because his visa was banned and he was deported from Australia after the epic legally related to not having any vaccine against COVID-19.

He never got the shots and also missed the US Open because of it. But the Australian government has since eased coronavirus-related restrictions, allowing Djokovic to come to the country, and also waived a rule that could have barred him from entering for three years after the visa was revoked. He has insisted that the entire episode in January 2022 affected him deeply but he does not hold a grudge; There certainly didn’t seem to be any hard feelings for him on Tuesday.

This wasn’t necessarily in Djokovic’s best form, and he appeared to show some frustration early on as he kept staring and muttering in the direction of coach Goran Ivanisevic and the rest of his entourage in the stands. But Djokovic produced a tennis ball strong enough to take the first step towards what he hopes will be his 22nd Grand Slam title to tie his opponent. Rafael NadalThe record for the most number in the history of tennis by a man.

Djokovic, who has spent more weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings than anyone else, also has a chance to return to that spot after the next two weeks. the person who currently occupies that seat, Carlos AlcarazHe missed the Australian Open due to a leg injury.

In the match that ended after 1 a.m., the second seed, he was a two-time major finalist Casper Roadbypass Thomas Meshack 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-3.

earlier in the day, Andrey Rublev Beat the wild card entry Dominic Tim 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the second round.

Thiem, runner-up at the 2020 Australian Open and winner of the US Open the same year, missed 2021 due to injuries but has recovered from outside the top 350 last year to a place inside the top 100. He was awarded a collegiate entry by tournament organizers.

“When you see that you have to play against Dominic, you know it’s not going to be easy. I know he’s going through some tough times, so I wish him all the best to get back to the level he can be as quickly as possible,” said Rublev.

Rublev will next play Australia in the qualifiers Max Purcell or Emil Rossovory Finland.

Thiem had a treatment for his abs midway through the second set but said it wasn’t serious and he wasn’t discouraged by his performance.

“This tournament doesn’t change anything, because I faced a really tough opponent,” he said. “I hope I can improve the results on the South American clay.”

later tuesday, Britain’s Andy Murray35, achieved his biggest victory in years 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (10-6) across more than 4 1/2 hours against Matteo Berettini.

“I’ll feel it – this evening and tomorrow,” said Murray. “But at the moment I am very happy. Very proud of myself.”

This was the three-time main champion’s first victory over a top-20 opponent in a Grand Slam tournament since 2017.

Will meet Murray next Thansi Kokkinakis or Fabio Fognini. Their game tonight with Kokkinakis suspended is five points short of a win.

Grigor DimitrovHe won the semifinals in Melbourne in 2017 Aslan Karatsev 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-2. He will take it upon himself Laszlo Djer In the second round.

Among the other men who applied Tuesday was No. 8 Taylor Fritznumber 9 Holger Ron and number 12 Alexander Zverev.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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