Novak Djokovic is unsure whether he will be able to play in the Australian Open fourth round after struggling with an abdominal injury in his five-set win over Taylor Fritz.

The world number one survived a huge injury scare to get past Fritz in the third round, winning 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.

Eight-time Australian Open champion Djokovic appeared to injure his abdominal region during the third set.

It was a match which started on Friday in front of a crowd and finished on Saturday without fans as Victoria went into a five-day lockdown.

Fritz appeared set to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time in his career, but Djokovic suddenly came to life in the fifth set.

Next up for Djokovic is Milos Raonic, who he has beaten in all 11 of their meetings, on Sunday.

But the Serbian is concerned by his injury and was unable to commit to saying he would be able to take to the court.

"I really don't know," Djokovic said when asked for his thoughts about facing Raonic.

"Right now, I know it's a tear, definitely, of the muscle so I don't know if I'll manage to recover from that in less than two days.

"I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if I'm going to step out on the court or not.

"I am very proud of this achievement. Let's see what happens."

Djokovic felt for American Fritz after his brave defeat and discussed what he had gone through during a contest lasting three hours and 25 minutes.

He continued: "I want to congratulate Taylor for a great fight. I'm sorry that he lost the match obviously.

"I don't know. I just tried to stay in there and I was hopeful that whatever is happening there is going to feel better.

"Towards the end of the fourth it started to feel better, third and fourth set I just served and couldn't do much on the return.

"I was just going for my shots, was hitting two first serves and it worked, it worked well.

"This is definitely one of the more special wins in my life. It doesn't matter what round it is and against who it is.

"Under these kinds of circumstances, to pull this through is definitely something I'll remember forever."

Novak Djokovic survived a huge injury scare to get past Taylor Fritz in the Australian Open third round - but his title defence could be in ruins.

The world number one and eight-time champion in Melbourne edged Fritz 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.

But the 17-time grand slam winner appeared to injure his abdominal region during the third set of the contest, which started on Friday in front of a crowd and finished on Saturday without fans as Victoria went into a five-day lockdown due to coronavirus concerns.

Fritz appeared set to reach the fourth round for the first time in his major career, but Djokovic suddenly came to life in the fifth set.

Next up for Djokovic is Milos Raonic, who he has beaten in all 11 of their meetings, but whether the Serbian is fit enough to play remains to be seen.

Djokovic told Eurosport he suspected he had suffered a torn muscle and that it was "in the clouds" whether he would be able to continue in the tournament.

Djokovic broke for 3-1 against Fritz and crucially dug himself out of a 15-40 hole in the seventh game, but a forehand into the net saw him fail to serve out the set.

Yet Djokovic was close to flawless in the tie-break, winning the first six points before closing it out, and then breaking to begin the second set.

That spurred Djokovic to win the second before the drama followed.

He took a medical timeout after the third game of the third set and then repeatedly required treatment on his abdominal region.

The injury seemed to be bothering Djokovic, who was broken after sending a forehand long in the eighth game, and Fritz closed out the set.

A struggling Djokovic was broken again in the third game of the fourth set before fans were forced to leave Rod Laver Arena ahead of restrictions being introduced in Victoria, but Fritz levelled the match.

Djokovic looked far healthier to begin the final set and he broke for 4-2 with a brilliant forehand winner after a baseline exchange, winning four straight games on his way to a post-midnight victory.

Data Slam: Djokovic's American dominance continues … just
Djokovic extended his winning streak against Americans at tour level to 17 matches. His last loss to an American opponent came against Sam Querrey at Wimbledon in 2016.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 52/53
Fritz – 62/45

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 15/5
Fritz – 24/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 4/9
Fritz – 3/12

Fans were forced to leave Rod Laver Arena with Novak Djokovic's third-round match at the Australian Open still in progress. 

With Victoria entering a five-day lockdown from Saturday due to coronavirus concerns, spectators were told to leave Melbourne Park before 23:30 local time (12:30 GMT). 

Restrictions were coming into place in Victoria from 23:59 local time (12:59 GMT). 

Djokovic's clash against Taylor Fritz was the only match still in progress, although fans were informed to leave amid increasing drama. The world number one led by two sets to one but was struggling with a suspected abdominal injury in the fourth. 

There were boos when the announcement was made, with a message also displayed inside the arena. Play was briefly suspended as fans were moved out. 

No spectators will be allowed at the year's first grand slam for the next five days, although the tournament will continue. 

Dominic Thiem came from behind to edge Nick Kyrgios in a five-set epic in the Australian Open third round on Friday.

Thiem, last year's runner-up in Melbourne, fought back to win 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 on John Cain Arena.

The Austrian third seed was unable to match Kyrgios' energy levels early on, but the reigning US Open champion responded to reach the fourth round of a major for the 15th time in his career.

Thiem, who will face Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round, was in impressive form after his slow start, finishing with 57 winners and just 28 unforced errors.

Kyrgios was getting the crowd – full of energy ahead of Victoria going into a five-day lockdown from Saturday due to coronavirus concerns – involved from the warm-up, while Thiem appeared flat.

An underarm ace saw Kyrgios take a two-sets-to-love lead as he looked in control before Thiem responded.

Coming from 15-40 down in the opening game of the third set, Thiem won 20 consecutive points on serve.

Kyrgios steadied and held after a marathon game to begin the fourth set, but he could not deny Thiem – who continued to hold serve comfortably – in the ninth as the Austrian broke with a cross-court forehand pass.

A point penalty for ball abuse appeared to bring Kyrgios to life, but Thiem saved a break point and served out the set.

The crucial and only break of the fifth set came for Thiem in the seventh game after several fine returns and he closed out his victory with a spectacular backhand winner down the line.

The Australian Open will continue without supporters after Victoria announced a five-day lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

This year's delayed Australian Open had started on Monday with a limited amount of fans - capped at 30,000 per day at Melbourne Park - due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Victorian government announced a new lockdown on Friday to control an outbreak of the UK coronavirus strain, state premier Daniel Andrews said.

Victoria's new state-wide restrictions will be introduced from 11.59pm on Friday - with reigning men's champion Novak Djokovic still scheduled to close out the day - until Wednesday.

"Any number of other large and small professional sport events, they will function essentially as a workplace," Andrews told reporters. "But they will not function as an entertainment event, because there will be no crowds.

"And the workforce will be the minimum that is needed in order for that to be COVID-safe and safe in lots of other contexts."

In response, the Australian Open released a statement while tournament director Craig Tiley insisted the slam will continue.

"Tennis Australia continues to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone," the Australian Open said in a statement.

"The Victorian government has announced a five day lockdown commencing at 11:59pm on Friday. Australian Open sessions today and tonight will continue as planned with COVIDSafe protocols in place.

"We are notifying ticketholders, players and staff that there will be no fans onsite at the AO for five days, commencing from Saturday 13 February.

"Full refunds will be available for anyone who has tickets for these sessions and they will be advised on how to apply as soon as possible.  

"The AO broadcast-only contingency plan will commence from Saturday 13 February until restrictions are lifted. Play will continue uninterrupted on the broadcast, albeit without spectators onsite."

The Australian Open was due to get underway in January, but the COVID-19 crisis forced the year's first slam to be pushed back until February.

The lead-in tournaments across the ATP and WTA Tours took place behind closed doors in Melbourne.

Rafael Nadal was able to ease through to the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday, thanks in part to the help of YouTube.

The Spaniard looked in impressive form as he swept aside Michael Mmoh 6-1 6-4 6-2 in the evening session at Melbourne Park, with perhaps the biggest hinderance for Nadal caused by a rowdy spectator who was eventually escorted out of Rod Laver Arena.

Having come through qualifying, Mmoh had rallied to stun Viktor Troicki in the opening round. However, he never threatened a stunning upset of the 2009 champion, who will next face Cameron Norrie.

Meanwhile, Daniil Medvedev marked his birthday with a routine win of his own, the in-form Russian stretching his unbeaten run to 16 matches to suggest he is a serious contender for the title.

Stefanos Tsitsipas found life a little tougher in his outing but while the Greek survived the scare to move on in the main draw, fellow seeds Borna Coric and Lorenzo Sonego were knocked out.


NO VIDEO NASTY FOR NADAL

Ever the consummate professional, Nadal revealed he did his research online to find out more about second-round foe Mmoh, who had to get through three qualifying rounds just to make the main draw.

The world number 177 managed more aces than the 2009 champion but failed to create a break-point opportunity in a contest that lasted one hour and 47 minutes. Like the fan who disturbed play by shouting and making gestures towards Nadal as he served for the second set, Mmoh perhaps knew he was heading for the exit.

"I always have a lot of respect for every opponent. Yesterday, I was watching some videos of him on YouTube, trying to know a little bit more about him," Nadal said in his on-court interview after the match.

"Every day when you go onto the court, anything can happen - you can win, you can lose. You need to be ready to accept both things."

Norrie is next for the 34-year-old, the Briton defeating qualifier Roman Safiullin in four sets.


NO TIME TO CELEBRATE FOR MEDVEDEV

While Roberto Carballes Baena offered some resistance in the second set, Medvedev provided a further demonstration of his obvious talent with a 6-2 7-5 6-1 thrashing of the Spaniard.

The fourth seed from Russia was on court for one hour and 44 minutes but insisted afterwards his focus will now switch to his next opponent - Filip Krajinovic - rather than celebrating turning 25.

"There's no time to celebrate my birthday in a tournament. I got presents from my wife, but I'll soon look to my next match," he said. "If I'd have lost, I probably would go and celebrate, but I won so I can't now."

Krajinovic defeated Pablo Andujar 6-2 5-7 6-1 6-4 to progress. He was triumphant in the only previous meeting with Medvedev on the ATP Tour, winning in straight sets when they went up against each other at Indian Wells in 2019.


TSITSIPAS FIGHTS LIKE LION, LOPEZ EXTENDS SLAM STREAK

Tsitsipas was stretched to the limit but came out on top against Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 in a gruelling encounter.

Tsitsipas - who reached his maiden grand slam semi-final at the Australian Open two years ago - rallied from a set down to eventually see off Kokkinakis after four hours and 32 minutes.

Local hope Kokkinakis was playing his first major since the 2019 US Open and threatened a huge upset against the fifth seed.

"Great match towards the very end, and I fought like a lion," said Tsitsipas, who next meets Mikael Ymer. "I fought like a real warrior out there, and it was an amazing ending with lots of emotion and great spirits."

In his 75th consecutive grand slam, 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez came from two sets down to top 31st seed Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4.

Fabio Fognini was involved in a thrilling five-setter against Salvatore Caruso, which ended with the pair engaging in a tense verbal exchange that led to security intervening.

Record-chasing Rafael Nadal cruised through to the third round of the Australian Open after outclassing Michael Mmoh in straight sets.

Nadal is bidding to move clear of Roger Federer with a record 21st grand slam title, while the world number two is also looking to become the first man in the Open Era to win each of the four majors twice.

The 2009 Australian Open champion remains on track thanks to Thursday's 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory in warm conditions under the Rod Laver Arena lights.

Nadal was aiming to maintain his perfect record against qualifiers at the Australian Open - the Spanish star having won 25 of the 26 matches played against qualifiers at a grand slam, with his only defeat coming to Dustin Brown at Wimbledon in 2015.

He did not have much trouble against Mmoh, Nadal schooling the 23-year-old in a merciless and devastating first set, which saw him win 80 per cent of first serves, hit 10 winners and break twice.

Mmoh, who was looking to surpass the achievement of his father after Tony reached the Australian Open second round in 1988, provided some flashes of quality.

On just one occasion had Nadal lost to a player as low as number 177 Mmoh at ATP Tour-level - world number 690 Joachim Johansson in 2006, while Nick Kyrgios (144) was the lowest-ranked player to upstage the veteran at a slam via Wimbledon in 2014.

But it was trademark Nadal, who despite Mmoh's best efforts, broke in the fifth game for a 3-2 lead and never looked back, though one unruly fan tried their best to derail the former world number one before being escorted out of the stadium.

Amid concerns over his back pre-tournament, Nadal raced through the third set with a couple of highlight shots to set up a clash against Cameron Norrie.

 

Data Slam: Nadal stays perfect

Nadal improved to 50-0 when winning the opening two sets at the Australian Open, dating back to 2004.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 40/24
Mmoh – 16/25

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 7/3
Mmoh – 8/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 5/11
Mmoh – 0/0

Nick Kyrgios has the weapons to overcome the "super physical" Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open on Friday.

The eccentric Australian continued to excite at Melbourne Park with a five-set win over Ugo Humbert in the second round, saving two match points.

Kyrgios, 25, is into the third round of a grand slam for the 15th time in his career, but it has been a difficult hurdle for him to cross. He is 6-8 in the third round of majors, although three of those wins – and just one loss – have come at the Australian Open.

While he has all the weapons, Kyrgios faces third seed Thiem, the US Open champion and last year's runner-up in Melbourne.

"He's probably one of the most physical guys on tour. He's an extremely good player. I have actually seen him progress. He's a bit older than I am. I actually saw him in juniors and then I saw him struggle for a couple years, futures, challies, and then to see him get to the top of the game. It's been actually pretty cool to see him develop and finally find what he needs to do to win matches," Kyrgios said about Thiem after overcoming Humbert.

"He trains like an absolute animal. He's consistent every day. And I actually have a lot of respect for him. I think his style of tennis is not easy to play. He's super physical, but I'm not even thinking about it. Like, I'm just hurting thinking about playing him right now."

He added: "Whatever happens against Thiem happens. I'm going to go out there, serve, play with instinct, and if it's enough, it's enough. If it isn't, I'm all right with that."

With much of the talk at the year's first major focused on the fast courts, Kyrgios' serve will be vital.

The Australian has seen 50 per cent of his first serves in the opening two rounds go unreturned, with 44 aces. He has also served at 72 per cent and won 81 per cent of the points when his first serve has gone in.

Thiem has recorded wins over Mikhail Kukushkin and Dominik Koepfer to begin the tournament, winning 13 of 27 return games. Kyrgios has won eight of 42 return games.

Kyrgios has been among the men more willing to serve and volley to begin the event, playing 26 such points and winning 16. He has also won 39 of 55 net points, while Thiem is an impressive 31 of 36.

Novak Djokovic is among those who have talked about the fast courts at Melbourne Park this year, and the world number one said that would suit the big servers. Thiem said he had never played on courts as fast at a grand slam so far in his career.

"I prefer last year's courts, if I could choose. It's pretty fast, as I said the days before. It's probably one of the fastest grand slam tournaments I've played so far," he said. "Well, we have to get used to it, yes. But if I have to choose, I would choose the last year's condition."

The opportunity is there for the big-hitting Kyrgios, but he will need to be at his best.

Novak Djokovic admitted there was plenty of room for improvement after coming through a "difficult spot" at the Australian Open, where Nick Kyrgios thrilled the crowd with an impressive comeback.

Top seed Djokovic was made to work for his 6-3 6-7 (7-3) 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 triumph against Frances Tiafoe as he reached the third round in Melbourne. 

Kyrgios is also through, albeit he even surprised himself by rallying from the brink of defeat to knock out 29th seed Ugo Humbert in the evening session. 

Stan Wawrinka was on the wrong of an upset on Wednesday, but there were no such problems for fellow seeds Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman and Milos Raonic. 

Meanwhile, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime will have to put their friendship to one side when they face each other next, the former setting up the all-Canadian clash by beating Bernard Tomic in three sets.


'PASSIVE' DJOKOVIC STILL MAKING PROGRESS

In the first meeting between the pair, the impressive Tiafoe went toe-to-toe with Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena.  

The 23-year-old American's performance – coupled with the Melbourne heat – made the eight-time Australian Open champion sweat, albeit Djokovic felt he could have made life easier for himself.

"I was at times not feeling my timing as well as I normally am. Credit to him. I think he has managed to come out with a great performance and quality of tennis. He put me in a difficult spot," he said. 

"I had my chances early in the second set. If I broke him there, maybe the course of the match would be different.   

"But again, he was holding his serve very well. I was not really using my break-point chances very well. At times I was too passive. Just wasn't feeling the ball today as well as I normally do." 

Next up for Djokovic is another player from the United States in the form of Taylor Fritz, who ousted compatriot Reilly Opelka in a five-set battle.


IN THE NICK OF TIME

Kyrgios described his clash with Humbert as "one of the craziest matches I've ever played" after prevailing 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 - much to the delight of an enthralled audience who watched the drama unfold on John Cain Arena.

The Australian smashed a racket, lost his cool with umpire Marijana Veljovic over a faulty net cord sensor and had to save a pair of match points before eventually coming out on top in a see-saw battle.

"I just remember, down that end, when I was a couple of match points down, I don't know what was going on," Kyrgios - who dropped to his knees after sealing victory - said in his on-court interview.

"If you were inside my head, there were some dark thoughts in there. But I live to fight another day and hopefully I can continue to play good tennis in front of you guys."

His reward is a clash with Thiem, the third seed having dismissed the challenge of German Dominik Koepfer in straight sets as he dropped just six games.


STAN-D AND DELIVER

Wawrinka appeared on course to survive a serious scare when he rallied from two sets down against Marton Fucsovics, but the Swiss was unable to seize on the chances that came his way in a tense tie-break. 

Fucsovics had needed over four hours to overcome wild card Marc Polmans in the previous round and, once again, found a way to get over the finishing line at the end of a Melbourne marathon. 

The Hungarian trailed 6-1 during the decisive breaker, yet hit back to stun the 17th seed 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6 (11-9). For Wawrinka, there was frustration at the missed opportunities, albeit he also praised his conqueror. 
  
"From 6-1 up, I started to hesitate a little bit in the way I was playing," he said. "I wanted to put the ball maybe too much in and I [was] not going completely for my shots and that's when I started to miss a little bit and it helped him to come back in the match.  

"He was fighting well, he's a tough player, he's a good player and he deserved to win." 

Defending champion Novak Djokovic survived a stern test after prevailing 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 against Frances Tiafoe en route to the Australian Open third round.

Tiafoe threatened an upset in warm and sunny conditions at Melbourne Park, where world number one Djokovic was pushed to the limit on Wednesday.

But Djokovic dug deep to prevail in a hard-fought battle, keeping his bid alive for a record-extending ninth Australian Open crown and an 18th grand slam title.

Djokovic had only ever lost in the second round of the Australian Open on one previous occasion - in 2017, when he was upstaged by wildcard Denis Istomin in his earliest Melbourne Park exit since the opening round in 2006.

But Djokovic controlled proceedings initially, despite a blip in the first set against Tiafoe, who enjoyed his best run in Melbourne after reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals two years ago.

After racing out to a 4-1 lead, Djokovic was broken to love in the seventh game as Tiafoe reeled off back-to-back games, only to break back immediately - letting out a thunderous roar before closing out the first set in just over half-an-hour.

Not overawed, Tiafoe refused to go away, rallying from love-40 down and saving three break points in a marathon third game lasting almost eight minutes.

It set the tone for a tense second set as Tiafoe - who saw his winner count rise from five in the opening set to 17 - won a tie-breaker.

Djokovic owned a 15-4 record when splitting the opening two sets at the Australian Open, and 68-16 across majors, and he managed to claim an early break that he consolidated for a 3-0 lead to start the third set.

Tiafoe saved two set points when down 5-4 and he continued to frustrate Djokovic en route to another tie-break, but the latter prevailed, albeit unconvincingly.

The fourth set followed a similar theme until Tiafoe came unstuck at 4-3, Djokovic performing when it mattered most as he secured his passage on the back of a double-fault.


Data Slam: Djokovic dazzles from the service line

The Serbian star was always going to be hard to beat behind a strong serving display. Djokovic fired down 26 aces and won 84 per cent of his first serves, having served sat 62 per cent through the contest.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 56/37
Tiafoe – 49/43

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 26/5
Tiafoe – 23/8

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 5/14
Tiafoe – 2/3

Former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka exited in the second round after a marathon loss to Marton Fucsovics.

Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, bowed out after a 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6 (11-9) loss to Fucsovics on a warm Wednesday in Melbourne.

Fucsovics saved three match points on John Cain Arena in an encounter that lasted three hours, 59 minutes.

Wawrinka led 6-1 and 8-4 in the super tie-break, but Fucsovics won the final five points and seven of the last eight.

The Hungarian continues to enjoy the year's first grand slam, where he has reached the fourth round twice in the past three years.

Wawrinka, though, has struggled in Australia in recent years.

The Swiss star has now been eliminated in the second round in three of the past four years, while reaching the quarter-finals in 2020.

Wawrinka rallied from two sets to love down and 5-3 behind in the fifth, but wasted his chances in the super tie-break.

Rafael Nadal sailed into the second round of the Australian Open on day two before backing "humble" fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz to have a "great career" following his maiden grand slam win.

Nadal cruised to a 6-3 6-4 6-1 victory over Laslo Djere on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday and will face Michael Mmoh in round two.

The Spanish great's compatriot Alcaraz won his first major match at Melbourne Park, seeing off fellow qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-1 6-4 6-4.

Murcia native Alcaraz has been billed by Nadal's uncle and former coach, Toni Nadal, as his nephew's "natural replacement" and the 20-time grand slam champion says the 17-year-old has all the ingredients to have a great career.

The second seed said: "He's very good. He's very young. He has everything to improve in the future with his age.

"He already is where he is, and he has a lot of great things on his game. I really believe that he will have a great future because he's a good guy, humble, hard worker. He has a lot of positive things."

Daniil Medvedev outclassed Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-2 6-4, while Stefanos Tsitsipas eased past Gilles Simon 6-1 6-2 6-1, but fellow seed David Goffin lost a five-set marathon with Alexei Popyrin.

 

Nadal happy to 'survive' 

Nadal missed the ATP Cup before starting his quest for a record 21st grand slam title at Melbourne Park due to muscle tightness in his back.

He was simply happy to clear the first hurdle on the second day of the tournament.

"I needed to survive today and that's what I did. I just tried to be focused all the time, tried to get through," he said.

"For me personally, [I'm] happy to be through to the second round. I did I think a good job today. Straight sets, that's what I did."

 

Tennys disgruntled over 'joke' of preparation

American Tennys Sandgren was among over 70 players who were locked down in a hotel for a fortnight before the tournament due to positive COVID-19 test on their flight to Australia.

Sandgren made no secret of his displeasure over the restrictions he was forced to adhere to and let his feelings be known again after the two-time quarter-finalist lost 7-5 6-1 6-1 to Alex de Minaur on John Cain Arena.

He said: "How would you imagine prepping for a hot kind of muggy day, three-out-of-five sets against a player like that, that calibre, when you can't play tennis? You can't go outside? You can't. It's impossible. It's impossible.

"So I played last week's event [the Great Ocean Road Open], which probably wasn't a good idea. It wasn't hot, it was very mild conditions, and I played two hard three-set matches and I've never been more sore in my life after the second round, and I took two days off because I couldn't walk, and then I hit a couple times before today. I mean, it's just kind of a joke of preparation. But yeah. What are you going to do?"

 

Alcaraz escaping social media hype

Big things are expected of teenager Alcaraz and there was more hype over his potential after an impressive first-round win.

Alcaraz just wants to do his own thing and show why the likes of Rafael and Toni Nadal speak so highly of him.

"So I try to be focus on me, not on the social media, to play my game, play in front of my team, to my team, to me, my family," he said.

"I try to, yeah, to be a part of the social media and don't hear the comparison with Rafa. Yeah, I try to do this."

Rafael Nadal insisted his back was "not perfect" but he is hoping the injury improves after easing through the Australian Open first round.

Playing his first competitive match since last year's ATP Finals, Nadal cruised past Laslo Djere 6-3 6-4 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.

As he eyes a record 21st grand slam title, the Spanish star entered the year's first major under an injury cloud.

Despite his comprehensive first-round victory, Nadal, 34, said his back was still troubling him.

"My back is not perfect, as I said a couple of days ago. Every day that I'm able to go through, probably there are more chances to get better. That's the thing now," he told a news conference.

"There is always a chance to improve, and that's why I'm here playing and fighting to try to get better and then give myself a chance. Today it's not great.

"I needed to change a little bit the motion of my serve. That's what I tried to survive that condition today. Tomorrow a day off.  After tomorrow, another match. I need to go day to day and just try to stay positive.

"Of course every day that I am trying to stay here longer is a day with a chance to get better finally, so that's what I am trying. Trying to do all the things possible to be ready for compete, for what I came here."

Nadal won 40 of 48 points on first serve against Djere, while he mixed 19 winners with 24 unforced errors.

The world number two is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era to win every grand slam at least twice as he aims to add to his 2009 Australian Open title.

"I was able to win in straight sets. It's always a positive start for me," Nadal said.

"Always difficult after not playing for a while, playing an official match in a while. A good start. Happy.

Nadal will face either Viktor Troicki or Michael Mmoh in the second round.

Rafael Nadal opened his bid for a record 21st grand slam title with a straight-sets win over Laslo Djere at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

World number two Nadal, level with the absent Roger Federer for the most men's slams in history, defeated Djere 6-3 6-4 6-1 in the opening round in Melbourne.

Nadal needed less than two hours to earn a meeting with either Viktor Troicki or Michael Mmoh as he appeared to dismiss concerns regarding his fitness at Melbourne Park.

All eyes were on Nadal due to a back problem, which left the star unable to compete for Spain in last week's ATP Cup.

But Nadal looked comfortable as Rod Laver Arena was bathed in sunshine, racing out to a commanding 5-1 lead behind a double-break advantage.

Djere – whose racquet went flying out of his hand and into the court as he served in the fourth game – looked overawed, however once he settled, the Serb reeled off seven successive points to unsettle Nadal.

Nadal, though, survived the fightback to close out the first set from a 0-30 deficit, despite his unforced-error count blowing out to 13 – one more than Djere.

Djere showed glimpses as he continued to make things difficult for Nadal, who had only lost twice previously in the first round of a slam – Steve Darcis (2013 Wimbledon) and Fernando Verdasco (2016 Australian Open).

But Nadal had all the answers, reducing his unforced-error count to nine and raising his winners to eight to claim a commanding two-sets-to-love lead.

Nadal boasted an intimidating record when winning the opening two sets of a slam match – 216-1, with his only loss coming to Fabio Fognini at the 2015 US Open – and he never looked back against Djere.

 

Data Slam: Nadal keeps strong record
Nadal kept a record intact, having never lost an Australian Open match to a player ranked as low as number 56 Djere.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 19/24
Djere – 20/36

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 5/1
Djere – 4/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 6/11
Djere – 1/5

World number one Novak Djokovic is in favour of technology replacing linespeople across the ATP Tour amid the absence of judges at the Australian Open.

This year's Australian Open is being held without line judges as a response to coronavirus restrictions at Melbourne Park, where "Hawk-Eye Live" technology is being used on every court. 

It is the first grand slam to replace all linespeople with technology as the tournament seeks to limit the number of people on court amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Djokovic was sensationally disqualified in the fourth round of last year's US Open for inadvertently hitting a ball at a line judge during his clash with Pablo Carreno Busta in New York.

Asked about the situation at the Australian Open, defending champion and eight-time winner Djokovic told reporters: "I think back [at the] US Open last year, someone asked me whether I would support the idea of introducing this kind of line call technology at every tournament.

"Obviously providing that the tournament is able to afford financially that kind of investment, because obviously it is an investment.

"I said that I support that, because I feel, yes, I understand that there is a tradition and history and the way we kind of got used to the line umpires being there, and I think it's nice that there is a lot of people and also volunteers with these line umpires that love tennis and love to have an opportunity to be out on the court and be close to the players and be part of a great event.

"But I think when you draw a line that generally I actually am in favour of technology. I think it's proven to be very accurate in this particular instance.  I don't see a reason why we need the line umpires, to be honest, if we have technology like this. I would of course keep the ball kids, but line calls I'm in favour of this technology."

Djokovic was speaking after beginning his quest for a ninth Australian Open title with a 6-3 6-1 6-2 win over Jeremy Chardy on Monday.

The 17-time grand slam champion is trying to close the gap on 20-time major winners Roger Federer - who is absent from this year's event - and Rafael Nadal.

"I respect all of my opponents' records. I think especially Roger and Rafa, what they have achieved over the years. They are legends of our sport, and I admire them a lot," Djokovic said. "They have positively affected my game and my growth, my development and all my success. Wouldn't be what it is if these two guys were not there.

"I have had tremendous rivalries with these two guys and we still keep on going. But I don't want any of their success, if you know what I mean. I'm not jealous of their success or anything like that. I try to build my own authentic career and my own success, and I stick to that."

Djokovic added: "I am always motivated and inspired to achieve big goals and break records. I would lie if I say that's not, you know, something that I'm thinking about or that my attention is not going that way.

"I have been very transparent about the fact that one of the biggest goals is to try to reach the number one of all time weeks' record, and I'm getting closer and closer to that one. That's a kind of a lifetime achievement for me. 

"Grand slams, as well. Of course the Masters events, I think the 1000 events over the years I have managed to be very consistent and win a lot of titles there. Those are the biggest events that we have on the four other than grand slams.  The head-to-head records with top guys as well, to name a few. I try to be a good student of the game. 

"I'm just very fortunate to be in this situation and position that I'm in at the moment, so I try to keep on going and obviously setting up new goals for myself, because I feel like other than passion and love that I have for the game and the biggest reason why I still play it is exactly that pure emotion that I have of enjoyment when I'm there and excitement.

"As a professional tennis player, I need to have goals. Over the last 15 years, everything that I have managed to achieve, I don't settle for anything less but the top of the men's game and the biggest trophies.  That's something I always aim for. I work towards that.  And yeah, I'm still lucky to be where I am. Let's see what the future holds."

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