There was no holding back for Novak Djokovic who opened up the defence of his Australian Open title with a quick fire 6-3 6-2 6-3 victory over Jeremy Chardy as he sets off on journey to pick up his ninth.
It feels great, so great to see people back in the stadium, I'm really glad to see a lot of people actually -- this is the most I've seen on a tennis court in 12 months Novak Djokovic
On paper Chardy had little chance having lost out to the world number one in their 13 previous meetings, all without even winning a set.
The Serbian’s confidence was obvious as he dominated the Frenchman throughout.
“It feels great, so great to see people back in the stadium,” he said while acknowledging the presence of socially distanced fans.
“I’m really glad to see a lot of people actually — this is the most I’ve seen on a tennis court in 12 months.
“Sometimes we take these things (crowds) for granted, but very very grateful to see you all,” he added.
The 33-year-old broke Chardy in the opening game and was never troubled, racing through the set in 32 minutes, with the Frenchman winning just two points off the Serb’s service game.
It was similar scenario in both the next sets as he wrapped up the match on his ninth ace.
He next faces American Frances Tiafoe, who beat Stefano Travaglia of Italy 7-6(5) 6- 6-2 in a tricky side of the draw with 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka and former world number three Milos Raonic potential obstacles en route to the last eight.
“It’s the first time I will face him, he’s definitely one of the up-and-coming American tennis players,” Djokovic said of Tiafoe. “I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”
Meanwhile controversial and entertaining Aussie, Nick Kyrgios, the Serb’s nemesis, dispatched Portuguese qualifier, ranked 184, Frederico Ferreira Silva 6-4 6-4 6-4, winning one point with a tweener.
The volatile Kyrgios, who reached the Australian Open’s last 16 last year, is targeting a maiden Slam title with quarter-finals in Melbourne and at Wimbledon his best showings so far.
He showed some frustration at his players’ box accusing them of not paying attention and then demanding one member there be removed.
Once he settled he raced through the match treating the crowd to a successful tweener shot between his legs as Ferreira Silva served to stay in the contest.
“It was special,” he said of his first Grand Slam match in a year in front of a noisy crowd but reduced-capacity crowd at John Cain Arena.
“It felt normal to be honest, you guys were going nuts and it as good to see.”
Despite the straight-set win, Kyrgios, who hasn’t played for over a year, said it was far from his best tennis.
“Honestly, it was pretty average. I haven’t played a Grand Slam match in over a year and I was definitely nervous,” he added.
But there was no happy start for Japanese Kei Nishikori, who felt he played some of his best tennis since elbow surgery in 2019 but it still wasn’t enough to prevent a first-round defeat.
Nishikori, a four-time quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park who has slid down the rankings to 41, was outlasted by Spain’s Pablo Carreno-Busta 7-5 7-6(4) 6-2.
Other notable results include Felix Auger-Alliasime beating Cedric-Marcel Stebe 6-4 6-4 6-2, Alexander Bublic hdlding out against Aljaz Bedene 6-4 7-5 5-7 6-4 and Diego Schwartzman defeating Elias Ymer 7-6(3) 6-4 2-6 6-2