Djokovic claims first win of the season ahead of Australian Open (VIDEO)
Novak Djokovic appears to be in top form ahead of his return to the Australian Open later this month after he blitzed France’s Constant Lestienne in his first singles match of 2023 at the Adelaide International.
The Serb had already appeared in the tournament in doubles action, receiving a raucous welcome from the Australian crowd, just 12 months after a visa scandal that saw him deported from the country after falling foul of its Covid-19 vaccination requirements.
He was subsequently issued with a three-year visa ban but this was overturned in November, allowing him to enter the country where he is a nine-time Australian Open champion.
But if some were expecting to see a rusty Djokovic on his return Down Under, they were very much mistaken as the 21-time Grand Slam winner showed off his varied arsenal as he sailed past Lestienne in straight sets (6-3, 6-2).
De vuelta en Australia 😎🦘Novak Djokovic cumple en su presentación en Adelaida y derrota a Constant Lestienne por 6-3 y 6-2.Su rival en 2da ronda será Quentin Halys.pic.twitter.com/S2AU4Bj7sC— Iván Aguilar (@ivabianconero) January 3, 2023
He was imperious with his ground strokes throughout, and even won points on 44% of Lestienne’s first serves, beating a player ranked 65th in the world in just 75 minutes.
“To see the packed house for my first match was definitely a very pleasant surprise, and lots of support, lots of love,” Djokovic said afterwards, clearly pleased that there were no hard feelings after his run-in with the Australian authorities last year.
“That obviously motivated me and allowed me to express myself in the best possible way on the court with my game.
“I thought I played very solid, competitive start. I think for six games, we were kind of close. He had also break point. I managed to play solid in important moments and got rewarded with the break, and after that I didn't look back. I played really well in the second set.”
The competition will intensify from this point on, with Djokovic appearing to be on a collision course with the seventh seed on his quarter of the draw, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.
But one suspects this is all a dress rehearsal for Djokovic’s return to Melbourne Park where, if he claims his tenth slam, he will draw level on the all-time Grand Slam winners list with rival Rafael Nadal.