‘It is an ongoing love affair between me and Rod Laver Arena,’ says Novak Djokovic after Australian Open win
Novak Djokovic was able to carry on his “love affair” with the Rod Laver Arena as his quest for a ninth Australian Open title began in usual fashion.
The world No 1 is the king of Melbourne Park, having won eight times over the last 13 years, and he put on a royal performance to take down Jeremy Chardy.
It was no surprise that Djokovic won in straight sets, claiming a 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 victory, as in 14 meetings against the Frenchman he has yet to drop a set.
Picking up where he left off 👑
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 8, 2021
Djokovic enjoyed playing in front of a crowd again and said in his on-court interview: “It feels great. It makes my heart full to see the stadium again. This is the most people I have seen on a tennis court for 12 months.
“It is an ongoing love affair between me and this court, the Rod Laver Arena. Hopefully I can have many great matches with this kind of performances.
“I wanted to start off well tonight, first match night session, very special. One of the most special courts on the tennis tour that we have. It is my most successful and favourite courts on the tour. I have been very lucky to have some success on the court and have some great memories.”
Djokovic beat Dominic Thiem in last year’s final and the Austrian also made smooth progress into the second round.
The US Open champion, who could meet Djokovic in the semi-final, was too strong for Mikhail Kukushkin, winning 7-6 (7-2), 6-2, 6-3.
Thiem said: “I felt nerves because it was a long time until the slam, more than three weeks from when we arrived to Adelaide. It was not easy.
“It was amazing that we could practice, but three weeks is a long time, and if you’re unlucky or especially me, if I practice somehow too many days in a row, I start to play worse again instead of better. So I really had to find the right balance.”
Alexander Zverev recovered from a racket-smashing tantrum after losing the first set to beat Marcos Giron, while Grigor Dimitrov, the 2017 finalist, overcame what he described as his toughest ever first-round match, beating former US Open champion Marin Cilic in straight sets.
“I always like tough first rounds, but that was a little extra, I would say, to start off,” the Bulgarian said.
“What can I say? It’s been an interesting first round. Obviously I really needed to focus on my side of the net. He’s been a very, how can I say, one of the toughest opponents that I ever played I think in a first-round match.”
Gael Monfils was the biggest casualty of the day as he lost an gruelling five-set match to Emil Ruusuvuori.
The Finnish player had been Monfils’ hitting partner during the two-week quarantine in the build-up to the tournament and clearly made notes as he earned an impressive 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win.
The Frenchman, 34, did not take it well after the game and fighting back the tears he said: “I don’t have any confidence. I would like to get out of this nightmare but I can’t. I don’t know when it’s going to end. It’s hard. Every time I get here I feel judged, I’ve lost again.”
Denis Shapovalov and Jannick Sinner produced a thrilling end to the day with a five-set battle that finished at close to 1am.
Shapovalov, seeded 11th, will have cursed his luck when he saw the draw as it pitted him against the highest-ranked unseeded player and one who won one of the warm-up tournaments last week.
But the Canadian showed plenty of mettle to come through a gruelling encounter, winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Novak Djokovic news: Serb makes first public appearance since being deported
Novak Djokovic’s deportation from Australian has been…
Nick Kyrgios news: John McEnroe makes lavish claim about the Aussie maverick
McEnroe believes Kyrgios may be blessed with more talent than any other player in the game over the last decade,=.
Naomi Osaka news: ‘I’m not sure we’re going to see the great Naomi Osaka again,’ says former world No 1
Mats Wilander and John McEnroe on Naomi Osaka’s playing future.
Dan Evans news: Brit admits he ‘panicked on the court’ during defeat to Felix Auger-Aliassime
“They’re probably regretting wasting two hours of their time,” he joked about Andy Murray and co.
Aryna Sabalenka news: ‘Only 10 double faults’ as Belarusian laughs off her serving woes
The world No 2 has racked up 80 double faults in just five matches in 2022.
Stefanos Tsitsipas news: ‘Stefanos did not know that he had won the match’
Zoned in Stefanos Tstitsipas oblivious that he won the match.
Australian Open news: Dan Evans defeat signals the end of British singles hopes at Melbourne
Ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime ran out a comfortable win over over Dan Evans.
Daniil Medvedev news: Russian rolls on and teases crowd about ‘ups and downs’ of their relationship
Daniil Medvedev enjoying his relationship with the Australian fans.
Alize Cornet news: Heated exchange followed by brilliant interview and crowd singing happy birthday
All in a day’s work for Alize Cornet at the Australian Open.
Simona Halep: Former world No 1 getting ‘close’ to her best level as she marches on in Melbourne
Simona Halep in good nick at the Australian Open.