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.


Djokovic – 41/21
Carballes Baena – 14/16


Djokovic – 9/1
Carballes Baena – 4/1


Djokovic – 5/9
Carballes Baena – 0/3

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