Adelaide | Djokovic secures first win

Novak Djokovic has made a successful return to Australia after being deported from the country last year prior to the Australian Open, as a consequence of his stand against the Covid vaccine. He was also banned from entering the country for three years but that was revoked late in November and the Serbian former world No.1, has now been welcomed back with open arms by fans in Adelaide where he starts his preparation for this year’s Australian Open (which he has won 9 times) at the 250 International ATP event where he is the top seed.

I played very well. I thought the first six games were very competitive and I have never faced him before. Novak Djokovic

His first match was a doubles where he partnered Australia’s Vasek Pospisil but the pair were beaten 4-6 6-3 10-5 by he unseeded duo of Tomislav Brkic and Gonzalo Escobar from Bosnia Herzegovina and Ecuador respectively.

But that blip was quickly put aside as the Serbian, in front of a capacity crowd, swept past Constant Lestienne of France 6-3 6-2 to extend his run in Australia to 30 consecutive singles wins – a run which first started in 2018.

“For the first match I can’t complain,” Djokovic said later.

“I played very well. I thought the first six games were very competitive and I have never faced him before. He is a counter-puncher and doesn’t make too many mistakes. He has a tricky serve, hits his spots.

“But once I made that break at 3-2 in the first set, I thought I stepped it up and played really good tennis for the rest of the match.”

Tuesday’s win was Djokovic’s first in singles this season and keeps him on course for a semi-final match in Adelaide with 7th-ranked Daniil Medvedev, the third seed, who earlier beat Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 7-6 (6) 2-1 when Sonego was forced to retire with a right arm injury.

Having eased himself into the match, Djokovic took control when he broke Lestienne to go up 4-2 in the first set. After pocketing the first, he won the first four games of the second and took the match at his first attempt.

Djokovic, whose last loss in Australia was in the fourth round of the 2018 Australian Open, will face another Frenchman Quentin Halys, a 6-3 6-4 winner over Aussie wildcard Jordan Thompson, for a place in the quarterfinals.

Earlier, Medvedev saved nine set points before taking the first set in a tiebreaker against the 45th-ranked Sonego from Italy.

“I didn’t know it was nine (set points),” Medvedev said. “That’s actually crazy. Probably, maybe the first time in my life I’ve saved nine set points.

“What a match to start the year,” he added.

Sonego was playing Medvedev for the first time and often seemed to have the upper hand in the first set. He had six set points on Medvedev’s serve at 5-4 but Medvedev was able to rely on his big serve when he had to, saving all six.

Two games later, Sonego had three more set points at 0-40 on Medvedev’s but the Muscovite rallied again, eventually taking the set after 80-minutes.

“To be honest 0-40 was a tough moment,” he said. “I didn’t count but I knew I saved a lot of set points.

Medvedev will meet Miomir Kecmanovic for a quarterfinal place, the Serbian having defeated another Aussie wildcard, Chris O’Connell 6-4 6-4 in their opening round clash.

The surprise result of the opening round so far was the demise of Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime, the second seed, who crashed out to Australia’s Alexei Popyrin, a qualifier, 6-4 7-6(5).

“I’m pretty happy, it’s obviously an unbelievable feeling,” Popyrin told the crowd.

“I had a really, really tough season last year and to come out after qualifying and to beat a player of his quality just showed the work I did in the off-season is paying off already.”


Alexei Popyrin celebrates after defeating the second seed in his opening main draw match

BRENTON EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images




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