Djokovic storms into second round on Australian Open return | Tennis News
The 35-year-old, who was banned from the tournament last year, has shown few signs of the hamstring injury he picked up in Adelaide this month as he races to win over Rod Laver Arena 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.
After being unable to compete last year due to his stance on Covid vaccinations, there were concerns about how he might be received by fans in Melbourne.
The city endured lengthy lockdowns during the height of the pandemic.
Just like in Adelaide, however, the fourth seed took to the field to cheers and chants of “Nole”, with vocal support throughout the game from a stadium filled with Serbian flags.
Lots of love for Novak 🇷🇸 💕@DjokerNole • #AusOpen • #AO2023 https://t.co/CovFcQdsp7
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) 1673964193000
“Thank you for giving me the warm reception I could only dream of,” said Djokovic, who is chasing his 22nd major title with an equal record.
“I feel really happy to be back in Australia and playing on the field where I’ve had the greatest success of my career.
“Definitely the most special stadium of my life and I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the tournament.”
“Definitely this trial is the most special trial of my life.” 🇷🇸 @DjokerNole thanks fans at Rod Laver Arena.… https://t.co/pcHd9UV3ok
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) 1673963903000
He arrived at Melbourne Park in brilliant form after finishing 2022 by winning another ATP Finals title, which was followed by victory at the Adelaide International.
As if that wasn’t enough to discourage Carballes Baena, who was ranked 75th, Djokovic entered the clash after winning his most recent 21 Australian Open matches.
He opened with an ace, but initially failed to get his way, needing to save three break points in the fifth game.
But he quickly settled in and broke the next game to take a 4-2 lead and close the set.
His hamstring seemed to trouble him for a short while as he missed a shot 2-2 in the next set, but he went ahead and broke again with the score. 4-3 when Carballes Baena score a forehand.
Welcome back, Novak. 👋@DjokerNole beat Carballes Baena 6-3 6-4 6-0 to advance to the second round. @wwos • @espn •… https://t.co/SvA5H4RYp7
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) 1673963096000
Djokovic jumped a notch as the clock struck midnight in Melbourne and he immediately broke the third set, with the Spaniard having no answer as the former world number one rose to take the win.
“I’m very, very pleased with the way I played in the third set. I didn’t give him too many chances to breathe from the end of the field,” he said.
“I served very well. The second set was ups and downs and credits him for fighting.”
In Djokovic’s absence last year, longtime rival Rafael Nadal took the title to win his 21st Grand Slam which he stretched to 22 at the French Open.
Djokovic won Wimbledon to make it 21 and he makes no secret of his desire for more.
Additional motivation comes from trying to become the third player in history to win at least 10 titles at a Grand Slam.
Only Nadal, with 14 at Roland Garros, and Margaret Court, who has won 11 Australian Open singles titles, have more.