Australian Open: Djokovic makes winning return as he begins quest for 22nd slam

By Sports Desk January 17, 2023

Novak Djokovic swept through his first Australian Open match in two years as his mission to create more tennis history began in impressive style.

Chasing a 10th Australian Open title, and the major that would take him level with Rafael Nadal's record of 22 men's singles grand slams, Djokovic beat Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3 6-4 6-0.

Deported from Melbourne last year amid a vaccination saga, and denied the chance to defend his title, Djokovic received a rousing welcome on Rod Laver Arena.

The contest did not begin until shortly after 2230 local time, with Andy Murray's five-set afternoon battle against Matteo Berrettini having been followed by a three-set struggle for Ons Jabeur in the first night match.

Djokovic began with an ace, but all eyes were on how he would cope with a left hamstring problem that has been affecting his preparation. It required strapping, but ultimately it did not prove a worrying factor.

Entering the contest, world number 75 Carballes Baena had a 0-9 career record against top-10 players, so the match went much as expected.

The underdog had three break points in the fifth game but could not capitalise as Djokovic came from 0-40 behind to stay on serve. There was no escape from 0-40 for Carballes Baena in the next game, though, as Djokovic sealed the first break with a brutally brilliant forehand.

That established the tone, with Djokovic breaking in game seven of the second set on his way to a firm stranglehold. Once the second set was won, Djokovic steamed through the third, dropping only four points.

Data slam: Never in doubt

Djokovic is now 67-2 in grand slam first-round matches. His only losses have come in Australia, against Marat Safin in 2005 and Paul Goldstein a year later.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 41/21
Carballes Baena – 14/16

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 9/1
Carballes Baena – 4/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 5/9
Carballes Baena – 0/3

Related items

  • Murray set for back surgery in bid to be fit for Wimbledon swansong Murray set for back surgery in bid to be fit for Wimbledon swansong

    Andy Murray will undergo back surgery in an attempt to be fit for what will be his final appearance at Wimbledon, which begins in nine days. 

    The two-time competition winner was forced to retire from his second-round match at the Queen's Championships against Jordan Thompson after just five games. 

    It was later revealed by the 37-year-old that he had been suffering with back pain which eventually spread to his right leg, forcing him to withdraw from the competition. 

    The two-time Olympic gold medallist is set to call time on his illustrious career later this year, with Wimbledon and the Paris games described as a fitting end to his 20-year spell on the court by Murray. 

    But the former world number one faces a race against time to fit for Wimbledon, which starts on July 1, where he is also set to feature in the men's doubles with his older brother, Jamie. 

    “He saw a specialist yesterday evening and he’s basically trying to decide what his next move is," his brother told BBC Two on Friday. 

    "I don’t think it’s right for me to go into that personally, that’s up to him, but I think he has got a few decisions to make.

    "It’s obviously incredibly disappointing for him that this was potentially going to be his last Queen’s, last Wimbledon and Olympics, and there’s a potential that that might not be able to happen.

    "I think he’s got to make a few decisions, and see where he goes from there.”

  • Draper's dream run ended at Queen's by Paul Draper's dream run ended at Queen's by Paul

    Jack Draper's dream run at the Queen's Club Championships was halted at the quarter-final stage on Friday as Tommy Paul edged a hard-fought contest in three sets.

    Having claimed his maiden ATP Tour title in Stuttgart last week, Draper made it seven straight victories with a huge upset of world number two Carlos Alcaraz on Thursday.

    However, he could not extend that winning streak as Paul attacked his serve on every opportunity, hitting several excellent groundstrokes as he took the opener.

    Draper hit back in the second set, a long forehand seeing him convert his second set point.

    However, the new British number one appeared fatigued in the decider, his exertions against Alcaraz taking a toll as Paul kicked on, breaking to love in the seventh game and seeing out a 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory.

    Data Debrief: Draper falls short

    Playing in his second Queen's quarter-final, Draper could have become the first home player to reach the last four since Cameron Norrie in 2021.

    He was unable to stay the course against a fresher opponent, though, as fifth seed Paul improved to 25-10 for the season, reaching his second tour-level semi-final on grass.

  • Zverev survives early scare to pass Fils into Halle Open semi-finals Zverev survives early scare to pass Fils into Halle Open semi-finals

    Alexander Zverev battled past Arthur Fils despite losing the first set to book a place in the Halle Open semi-finals.

    The German, chasing his first-ever grass-court title, needed two and a half hours to get his 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 victory.

    Neither player managed a break in the opening set, matching each other evenly before Fils finally got the edge in the tie-break to take the lead.

    Zverev soon raised his level though, and during a run of eight consecutive points, broke the Frenchman to love at 3-2 on his way to forcing a decider.

    Despite another bright start to the set by Fils, he failed to get a single break, with Zverev rallying to set up a meeting with Hubert Hurkacz in the next round.

    Data Debrief: Zverev edges ever-closer to grass title

    Zverev is 37-10 for the season, and is the first person since Roger Federer (2012-19) to reach back-to-back semi-finals at the Halle Open.

    A two-time finalist at the tournament, the German is hoping to add two more wins to his 18-7 record in Germany to finally get his hands on the trophy.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.