Novak Djokovic was given a hero’s welcome as he returned to the Australian Open with a straight-sets victory over Roberto Carballes Baena.
Rod Laver Arena was stuffed with Serbian flags in assist of the nine-time champion, who was taking part in his first match of the 2023 match at Melbourne Park following final 12 months’s vaccine-related deportation.
Appearances he had made on the warm-up occasion in Adelaide and at a charity hit with Nick Kyrgios on Friday had very a lot indicated that might be the case, with all events apparently completely satisfied to maneuver on from one in all tennis’ extra unedifying chapters.
Djokovic’s followers chanted his identify as he made his entrance onto courtroom and all through a routine 6-3 6-4 6-0 victory over Spaniard Carballes Baena.
“Unbelievable atmosphere, thank you so much for staying,” Djokovic stated to the group. “Thank you for giving me such a welcoming reception I could only dream of.
“I feel very happy that I’m back in Australia and back on this court. I couldn’t ask for a better start to the tournament.”
The predominant query mark forward of the match had been concerning the situation of Djokovic’s left hamstring, which he harm in Adelaide and which has continued to trigger him hassle.
It was closely strapped, and there have been just a few moments the place he regarded uncomfortable, however he moved effectively and struck the ball together with his customary crispness from the baseline, ending the competition with 41 winners.
Carballes Baena, ranked 75, provided loads of resistance within the first two units, with Djokovic having to get better from 0-40 at 2-2. But that proved to be the one actual second the place he was on the again foot and he raced by means of the third set, shedding solely 4 factors.
Elsewhere, Alexander Zverev earned the primary victory of his comeback in gruelling trend, beating Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas 4-6 6-1 5-7 7-6 (3) 6-4.
The German, seeded 12, was taking part in solely his third match since struggling an ankle harm in a fall throughout his French Open semi-final in opposition to Rafael Nadal final June.
“I am extremely happy because I missed this over the past seven months,” Zverev stated.
“This match alone pays off for all the hard work and suffering that I have had. To win in front of this kind of crowd again… I can’t wait for the rest of the tournament. No matter what happens from now, the tournament is already a success for me.”
Alex De Minaur is now the good Australian hope following Nick Kyrgios’ withdrawal and he was a snug 6-2 6-2 6-3 winner over Hsu Yu-hsiou.
“I know what is asked from me,” the 23-year-old stated. “I know that at times I’ve got some pressure on myself to deliver. I take it with pride ultimately.”
Former finalist Dominic Thiem continues to seek out issues powerful practically a 12 months after coming back from a severe wrist harm and he fell to a 6-3 6-4 6-2 loss in opposition to fifth seed Andrey Rublev.
Eighth seed Taylor Fritz dropped a set in opposition to Nikoloz Basilashvili however recovered to win 6-4 6-2 4-6 7-5 whereas thrilling younger Dane Holger Rune eased to a 6-2 6-3 6-4 conquer Filip Krajinovic.