Novak Djokovic crushes Carballés Baena on joyous Australian Open return

On his return to competition at the Australian Open after his deportation last year, Novak Djokovic moved into the second round with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 win over Spain’s Roberto Carballés Baena in just over two hours on Rod Laver Arena.

“I really feel very happy that I’m back in Australia and I’m back here on the court where I’ve had the biggest success in my career,” said Djokovic. “Definitely this court is the most special court in my life and I couldn’t ask for a better start in the tournament.”

As expected after the warm reception he received in his exhibition match with Nick Kyrgios a week ago, Djokovic emerged at Rod Laver Arena to loud cheers and a celebratory mood, with Serbian flags and signs in every corner of the arena.

The biggest question surrounding Djokovic’s first-round match was whether he would actually make it on to the court and what shape he would be in. Since his physical problems in his semi-final match in Adelaide on 7 January, the state of Djokovic’s left thigh has been a source of discussion and there was uncertainty about whether he would train beforehand.

Djokovic began the match wearing visible strapping on his left leg and there were times when he did not appear entirely happy, but throughout the match he moved well and he showed little hesitation in his groundstrokes as he controlled the baseline and dictated until the end.

Novak Djokovic takes a selfie with fans after winning his first-round match
Novak Djokovic takes a selfie with fans after winning his first-round match. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Carballés Baena, who is most at home on clay courts, played well enough and offered some friction in the second set but Djokovic was comfortable and relaxed throughout, breaking serve at will and remaining composed. After establishing a two-set lead, Djokovic ran away with the match, picking apart his Spanish opponent in the third.

With his victory, Djokovic has now won 22 matches in a row at the Australian Open as he chases his 10th title. “The more you win on a certain court, the more comfortable and confident you feel every next time you step on it,” said Djokovic. “That’s probably one of the reasons I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of matches on this court, particularly in the night sessions. If I had to choose one court and conditions, it would be Rod Laver, night session, all night long.”

Djokovic will next face either Enzo Couacaud of France or Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien, a match that will be played on Wednesday after it was postponed because of heat and rain delays on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Holger Rune, the ninth seed, moved into the second round with a comfortable 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win over Filip Krajinovic. The No 8 seed Taylor Fritz, who has a great opportunity for a deep run in the bottom quarter of the draw, opened up his competition with a 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 win over Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Well after midnight on Margaret Court Arena, Casper Ruud, the second seed, neutralised the sweet two-handed backhand of young Czech Tomas Machac as he sailed through with a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-4 win.

The Guardian

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