Djokovic relishes ‘beyond my dream’ reception at Australian Open | Aici


MELBOURNE – Novak Djokovic said he was “very grateful” after making a perfect return to the Australian Open with a ruthless victory over Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena on Tuesday.

The Serbian enjoyed a welcome reception at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena after his ouster a year ago as he began his bid for a 10th Australian Open title in style.

The 35-year-old, who missed out on last year’s Grand Slam because of his standoff against the Covid vaccine, showed few signs of the hamstring niggle he picked up in Adelaide this month as he raced to 6-3 , he is 6-4, 6. -0 wins.

There were concerns about how fans would receive the former number one at Melbourne Park after talk of relegation 12 months ago.

The city endured prolonged lockdowns during the height of the epidemic.

But, as in Adelaide, the fourth row came out to cheers and chants of “Nole”, with loud noises throughout the game from a stadium full of Serbian flags.

“Thank you for giving me a welcome that I could only dream of,” said Djokovic, who is seeking his 22nd major title.

“I’m really happy to be back in Australia and on the pitch where I’ve had the biggest success of my career.

“This trial was definitely the most special trial of my life and I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the tournament.”

He arrives at Melbourne Park after finishing 2022 by winning another ATP Finals title, then followed it up with victory at the Adelaide International.

As if it wasn’t scary enough for 75th-ranked Carballes Baena, Djokovic entered the fray having won his last 21 Australian Open matches.

He opened with an ace, but didn’t have it in the first, needing to save three points in the fifth game.

But he quickly settled down and broke the next game to love for a 4-2 lead and close out the set.

His skin seemed to bother him briefly as he broke from 2-2 in the next set, but he held on and broke again at 4-3 when Carballes Baena hit a forehand.

Djokovic leveled as the clock struck midnight in Melbourne and he was broken straight away in the third set, leaving the Spaniard without an answer as the former world number one built up a winning streak.

Asked about the reception afterwards, Djokovic said: “It’s very appreciated. I felt very welcome on court, especially because the big Serbian community here in Australia welcomed me in a way that I didn’t expect. unbelievable.

“A lot of support. A lot of love. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the tournament in terms of support, in terms of how I felt on the court and playing as well.”

He will face Bolivian Hugo Dellien or French fighter Enzo Couacaud in the second round.

– ‘Very happy’ –

In Djokovic’s absence last year, longtime rival Rafael Nadal won the title to claim his 21st Grand Slam, extending his tally to 22 in French Open.

Djokovic won Wimbledon to reach 21st place and he did not hide his desire for more.

He said the left hamstring problem that had been bothering him for more than a week was not too much of a concern.

“The legs are good. It’s not ideal, but it’s getting there. Today was a very good test,” he said.

“I haven’t been training much in the last few days, to be honest with you, tennis.

“I’m really happy that I felt better as the match went on. The third set was great. That’s a good sign, a good sign.”

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