Djokovic Dominates Chardy To Start Australian Open Title Defence

Novak Djokovic (photo: Rob Prezioso/Tennis Australia)


Eight-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic began his title defence on Rod Laver Arena on Monday evening with a comfortable 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 win over France’s Jeremy Chardy. The World No. 1 sent down nine aces and won 86 per cent of his first-service points to secure victory in one hour and 31 minutes.

“Good evening everyone,” Djokovic said on court after his 14th win over Chardy in as many meetings between the two. “It’s great to see you back in a stadium.

“It makes my heart full to see a crowd in a stadium again. It’s one of those things, that we hope that these kind of circumstances in the world are only temporary and I’m really glad to see a lot of people

“It’s an on-going love affair between me and this court, the Rod Laver Arena, hopefully I can have many [more] great matches with these kinds of performances.”

Thiem remains untroubled

Last year’s runner-up, Dominic Thiem, was also in action. The No. 3 seed defeated Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-3 in the third match on Rod Laver Arena. Thiem had to save set point in a tightly-contested opening set and battle for two hours and 42 minutes.

“He’s very experienced, he played fourth round here (in 2012), and I think he likes the conditions, it’s way faster,” Thiem said on court after the win. “First set was super-challenging, I was a break down, it was a bit of a key point. In general I’m very happy to be back and to have a successful first round.”

After the disappointment of defeat to Djokovic in the 2020 Australian Open final, Thiem won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open last year, recovering from 0-2 down to defeat Alexander Zverev in the final.

The Austrian is aiming to become the sixth man in the Open Era to win the Australian Open title after winning the US Open in the previous season. Up next at Melbourne Park will be Dominik Koepfer from Germany, who defeated Bolivian lucky loser Hugo Dellien 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 44 minutes.

Zverev edges past Giron

Alexander Zverev needed some time to find his rhythm on Margaret Court Arena during his opening match against World No. 73 Marcos Giron from the United States.

The sixth seed from Germany lost the first set in a tie-break, after saving four set points. He then clearly needed to let off steam in the second set, as he smashed and broke his racket on court.

After releasing his emotions, Zverev regained his composure to charge on and beat the 27-year-old 6-7(8), 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-2 after two hours and 42 minutes.

“He played incredible. He knew on a big stage, against a top-10 player, he has to come out firing,” said Zverev.

“He had me in trouble. Two days ago I was spending three hours on court against Medvedev and Novak – my body was a bit fatigued. But this is a Slam, you don’t get easy matches.”

Zverev will next face US-American qualifier Maxime Cressy, who fought past lucky loser Taro Daniel of Japan 7-6(1), 7-6(3), 6-4 in two hours and 27 minutes.

Monfils crashes out

Meanwhile, an emotional Gael Monfils of France exited the Australian Open in anguish after suffering a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 defeat to Finnish young gun Emil Ruusuvuori and said that he felt trapped in a “nightmare” as he battles through a slump in form.

Monfils, who last tasted victory in Dubai nearly a year ago, fell to his seventh successive loss and only his second first-round defeat at Melbourne Park.

“I lost, I have zero confidence, I played badly. I cannot serve, I make mistakes … I do not feel right, and it shows,” Monfils said.

Wawrinka, Raonic advance

In other action, Stan Wawrinka made light work of Portuguese Pedro Sousa. The Swiss veteran required just 96 minutes to seal a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 result and won 88 per cent of  his first-service points.

“I was feeling good. I think it was a great match for a first round. Playing well, playing some good balls, I was playing aggressive, feeling better than last week. So I’m improving and happy to get through to the second round,” Wawrinka said during his post-match press conference.

No. 14 seed Milos Raonic of Canada also cruised through his first-round match, as he secured a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Argentine Federico Coria in a similar time.

In a highly-anticipated night session encounter, Denis Shapovalov of Canada battled past #NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

“Matches like this are so much fun for me to play,” said Shapovalov, in an on-court interview. “This is why I play the sport in front of fans like you guys, that are just so much fun for both guys. Win or lose, today is one of the matches that I am going to remember in my career, just because playing in one of these stadiums, the moment and the quality of tennis today, it was just so much fun to be out here.”