Novak Djokovic began his quest for a record seventh Australian Open crown on Tuesday night when he defeated 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-2 in two hours and 23 minutes. The pair met 11 days ago in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open semi-finals, with Djokovic saving five match points in the second set tie-break.
“I started really well,” said Djokovic. “[I played a] great first set and a great third set, as well. The second set was a long set with a lot of unforced errors from both sides. It was a gamble, really. He was two or three times a break up. I had my chances at 4-All, 5-All, many break points.
"But at the end of the day, I knew that winning second set would be crucial, because I definitely didn't want to give him wings. I didn't want to have him start swinging at the ball, as he knows. I'm very pleased with the first round, considering I had one of the toughest first-round draws, definitely considering his form and how well he played in Doha.”
World No. 2 Djokovic took a 5-0 lead at the start of the pair’s 14th meeting and despite being broken twice in the second set, the Serbian capitalised on winning the tie-break to open a 3-0 lead in the third set. He is now 58-6 at Melbourne Park and will next face Denis Istomin in the second round. Istomin beat Ivan Dodig 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
Grigor Dimitrov, the No. 15 seed, needed just over two hours to defeat wild card and World No. 231 Christopher O’Connell 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-3. The Bulgarian’s best result at the major came in 2014 when he advanced to the quarter-finals.