Djokovic storms into second round on Australian Open return. Following his expulsion a year ago, Novak Djokovic received a thunderous greeting as he easily defeated Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain to begin his pursuit for a 10th Australian Open championship.
The 35-year-old, who was disqualified from last year’s competition, had no evidence of the hamstring ailment he sustained in Adelaide earlier this month as he sped to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 triumph on Rod Laver Arena.
There were worries about how he could be treated by Melbourne supporters after he was unable to participate last year because to his position on the Covid vaccine.
At the height of the epidemic, the city was subject to protracted lockdowns.
However, much as in Adelaide, the fourth seed was greeted with raucous applause and cries of “Nole,” as well as vociferous support from Serbian flags covering the stadium.
Djokovic, who is attempting to equal a record-tying 22 major championships, thanked the crowd for their warm welcome, saying, “I could only dream of such a welcoming greeting.”
“I’m incredibly thrilled to be back in Australia and on the court where I’ve had the most professional success.
“This court is without a doubt the most unique court in my life, and the tournament couldn’t have started any better,” the player said.
He ended 2022 by winning another ATP Finals championship, and he followed it up by winning the Adelaide International, so he came to Melbourne Park in hot form.
Even more intimidating for the 75th-ranked Carballes Baena was the fact that Djokovic entered the match on a 21-match winning streak at the Australian Open.
He got things going with an ace, but things weren’t always going his way; in the fifth game, he had to avoid three break points.
However, he recovered fast, broke to love in the following game for a 4-2 advantage, and finished the set.
When he slipped for a shot at 2-2 in the following set, it looked like his hamstring was bothering him temporarily, but he persisted and broke again for 4-3 when Carballes Baena missed a forehand.
As the time in Melbourne crept past midnight, Djokovic raised his game. He broke early in the third set, leaving the Spaniard without any answers as the former world number one stormed to victory.
“I’m delighted with how well I performed in the third set. From the back of the court, I didn’t give him much of a chance to breathe,” he added.
I did a great job serving. The second set was up and down, but he fought hard.
Longtime rival Rafael Nadal won the championship last year in Djokovic’s absence to earn his 21st Grand Slam, which he extended to 22 at the French Open.
With his victory at Wimbledon, Djokovic increased his total to 21, and he has been open about wanting more.
The desire to become just the third player in history to win at least 10 championships at a single Grand Slam provides additional drive.
There are just two players with more titles—Nadal, with 14 at Roland Garros, and Margaret Court, with 11 victories at the Australian Open.