MELBOURNE, January 17, 2017
Defending champion Novak Djokovic opened his title bid at the Australian Open with a 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 win over hard-hitting Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.
The 29-year-old from Serbia impressed with some brilliant defence skills under the floodlight of the Rod Laver Arena to battle past the Spaniard, who knocked out Rafael Nadal in the first round in Melbourne last year.
Only 10 day ago, Djokovic was forced to save five match points to beat Verdasco in the semi-final of the Qatar Open in Doha. This time, the World No. 2 was focused during the important points and secured victory after two hours and 20 minutes.
“I started really well. Great first set. Great third set, as well. Second set was a long set with a lot of unforced errors from both sides. It was a gamble, really,” told Djokovic, who could become only the 8th man in history to win 7 Grand Slam titles at one Grand Slam event.
“He had two or three times a break up. I had my chances, 4-4, 5-5, many breakpoints. But in the end of the day, I knew that winning the second set would be crucial, because I definitely didn’t want to give him wings. I’m very pleased with the first round, considering I had one of the toughest first-round draws, definitely considering his form, how well he played in Doha. Just overall I’m feeling good about my performance.”
Djokovic will next face Denis Istomin from Uzbekistan.
Marathon Man Karlovic
Ivo Karlovic fired 75 aces to overcome Horacio Zeballos from Argentina in the longest encounter of the day on Court 19. After five hours and 15 minutes, the big serving Croat broke Zeballos’ serve with some superb tennis on match point, digging out a low ball and dropping it over the head of the Argentine who got back to it but skies the response. The scoreline in the end reads 6-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20. A marathon match in every sense.
DAY 2 Highlights:
- Lucie Safarova, remarkably, saves nine match points before beating Yanina Wickmayer
- Ivo Karlovic beats Horacio Zeballos 22-20 in the fifth set after five hours and 15 minutes. Sets new Australian Open record for number of games played since tie-breaks were introduced.
- Serena Williams negotiates tricky first-round hurdle in style, downing Belinda Bencic
- Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic impress in straight-set wins
- Tommy Haas bids farewell to the Australian Open, retiring two sets in against
- Jordan Thompson completes full circle: After losing on his Australian Open debut from two sets up against Jerzy Janowicz, he comes from two sets down to beat Joao Sousa for maiden win in Melbourne
Official Day/Night Attendance: 61,967