MELBOURNE, January 20, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)
Novak Djokovic kicked off his title defense at the Australian Open with an embattled 7-6(5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 win over Jan-Lennard Struff from Germany on Monday evening.
Djokovic got off to a good start and secured the first break of the match to get a 4-2 lead. He went on earning his first set point at Struff’s service game at 5-2, but the German was able to stay in the opening set by providing well-placed first serves. From then on, Struff continuously raised his level, went for aggressive approaches, and even managed to get back on track with a break to 30. In the following tie-break, however, Djokovic steadied himself and benefited by nervous displays from his opponent.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion dominated in the second set but was under serious pressure in the upcoming third set. Struff started playing with even more risk, but also less fear. He was able to produce 14 winners, win 7 out 11 points at the net and eventually broke Djokovic’s serve three times in the third set. Therefore, it was no big surprise that the 29-year-old German was able to force a fourth set against the World No. 2 from Serbia, who started being frustrated and hitting a comparatively high amount of unforced errors.
For the first time since 2006, Djokovic dropped a set in his opening match at the Australian Open.
After the Belgrade native recovered, he started crushing Struff’s second serve (just 1/9 points won) and reduced his errors again to eventually extend his winning streak in the 2020 ATP Tour season to seven matches. Djokovic hit 44 winners along the way into the second round. It was his 900th tour-level win.
“I’m obviously very proud of all the achievements. But at the same time, I try to remind myself how grateful I must be. I’m still playing on a very high level with the sport I truly love,” Djokovic said.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2020
Things went better for another German, namely Philipp Kohlschreiber, who not only won the Canberra Challenger last week, but also played a brilliant match today to secure a 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 palm over World No. 106 Marcos Giron after almost two hours on court.
Next up for the 36-year-old German will be Greek top-notcher Stefanos Tsitsipas, champion of the Nitto ATP finals in 2019, who eased past Italian Salvatore Caruso, losing just five games in total to earn a dominant 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 victory on Margaret Court Arena. The World No. 6 served incredibly well, hit eight aces and dropped just three points on first serve (33/36).
Tsitsipas is trying to repeat last year’s amazing run Down Under, when he reached the semi-finals after beating plenty of good players, including Federer.
“I came in not as the favorite, and I remember winning every single match in four sets. I feel number four was my favorite number, but I’m glad I didn’t have go four sets today,” said Tsitsipas. “Last year was outstanding; I get goosebumps just thinking about what I went through, and I hope for something similar this year or even better.”
Federer wins first match in 2020
20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer started his 21st appearance at the Australian Open with an easy 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over US-American Steve Johnson, who arrived with lots of confidence in Melbourne after emerging victorious at the ATP Challenger tournament in Bendigo last week.
Federer played furiously from the beginning and showed no signs of rust, even though it was his very first competitive match in the new decade, as he wanted to spend more time with his family. The 38-year-old Swiss allowed his opponent not a single break of serve and just one breakpoint overall during the match. He struck 11 aces, won 80 per-cent service points (49/61) and scored a well-balanced ratio between winners (34) and unforced errors (20).
The “Maestro” improves to 3-0 in his Head2Head against the American and remains unbeaten in first round matches in Melbourne (21-0).
“I think for me really the first three rounds are key to get going, to get used to the pressure, stay calm, when to save break point or 30-All points or whatever it may be or just to stay calm if you’re down a set and a break or whatever it might be. This is sort of the unknown that can be a little bit scary at times,” Federer said in press conference.
“I trained really hard, like I always do. I’m just so happy I didn’t have any setbacks. That sets you up nicely for the season.”
Federer will either face Frenchman Quentin Halys or World No. 41 Filip Krajinovic in the second round.
Upsets of the day
Earlier in the day, Marton Fucsovics stunned No. 13 seed Denis Shapovalov, beating him 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-1, 7-6(3) in three hours and 13 minutes.
Shapovalov started the year strong with two Top 10 victories over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev at the ATP Cup, but was not able to find any rhythm on court of the Margaret Court Arena against the 27-year-old Hungarian on Monday at noon, which resulted into him hitting a total of 62 unforced errors compared to just 38 winners.
After the Hungarian had to retire in his first match at the Challenger in Bendigo just a week ago, his fitness level was questionable at the start of the encounter. But Fucsovics came out strong, played very concentrated, hit a bunch of accurate shots, and proved that the fitness factor was no serious issue for him. In the end, Fucsovics struck 42 winners and allowed his opponent just one break of serve, saving five out of six breakpoints.
“It was a really good moment, one of the biggest wins in my career,” Fucsovics said. “I really wanted to win this match badly.”
Shapovalov should not remain the only seeded player to lose his opening match. Former world No. 11 Sam Querrey managed to dispatch No. 25 seed Borna Coric 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Coric, who kicked off the new decade strong with a top-5-victory against Dominic Thiem at the ATP Cup, did not manage to win a single set since then in his following three matches.
Querrey came out very strong and took profit of his huge serve, firing 18 aces and winning 82 per-cent first serve points (41/50). He will be facing Ricardas Berankis in the second round, who prevailed 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 over clay- court specialist Roberto Carballes Baena.
Rain delay stops action
Over the course of the afternoon, play was suspended on the outside courts due to heavy rain. The matches which did not finish will continue during Tuesday’s play at the Australian Open. There will now be 96 matches on Tuesday’s schedule.
Promising youngster Jannik Sinner is currently leading by the score of 7-6(2), 6-2, 4-4 on court 7 against Aussie Max Purcell, aiming to secure his maiden victory at the Australian Open.
US-American Reilly Opelka also ended the day with a 2-0 lead in sets against World No. 12 Fabio Fognini from Italy, whom he already defeated in four sets in the first round of the US Open in 2019.
All remaining matches on outside courts have been cancelled.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2020