[QODLink]
Tennis

Djokovic safely through in Melbourne

World number one begins quest to create history with first hat-trick of Aussie titles with win over Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2013 10:29
Djokovic is chasing his fourth Australian crown and sixth Grand Slam title overall [Reuters]

Novak Djokovic successfully negotiated the first hurdle in his quest to rewrite the Australian Open record books with an opening round 6-2 6-4 7-5 victory over France's Paul-Henri Mathieu on Monday.

The 25-year-old Serb is attempting to win his third successive Australian Open title, and fourth overall. No man in the professional era has won three successive Australian titles.

The match could have been a potentially tricky one for Djokovic.

Mathieu was a former top-20 player, rising to as high as 12th in 2008, before he underwent knee surgery in 2011 that wiped out his entire season and dropped him down the rankings.

Tricky match-up

"I was very committed from the start of this match... because I knew the quality of my opponent," Djokovic told reporters.

"He has been on the tour for a while and he played the finals of Davis Cup.

"He had lots of success (and) he can go out there and play equally well as anybody if it's in his striking zone."

The 31-year-old Frenchman did show glimpses of the prowess that carried him up the rankings, with tactical awareness and an ability to construct, then finish points, though Djokovic said he felt comfortable throughout.

"You know, I felt I was in control of the match in the opening two sets," Djokovic said.

"Then, you know, he started playing better, striking the ball quite well from both sides on the baseline.

"I thought he was serving really precisely and really well. It was tough to break."

Despite Mathieu's improved performance, Djokovic showed why he was world number one late in the third set.

Twice Mathieu had him scrambling, wrong footed and off balance. And twice, a lunging Djokovic was able to recover with heavy topspin forehands to pass the Frenchman at the net.

The first curved acutely across court to clinch the 10th game of the set for the Serb, while the second went like a bullet down the tramline to set up a break in the 11th that eventually gave him the chance to serve for the match.

He achieved victory with a forehand pass before celebrating with his customary fist pump salute to his supporters.

Harrison next

The world number one will now meet Ryan Harrison of the US in the second round after the American had earlier overcome Colombia's Santiago Giraldo 2-6 6-4 7-5 6-4.

"He's one of these up-and-coming young talents who has been playing well on the tour for last few years," Djokovic said of the 20-year-old American.

"He likes playing on hard courts. I think he had lots of success in US hard court tournaments. He has a big serve which he likes to use and big forehand.

"I played him few times before on different surfaces. I know what it takes to win that match."

On the men's side, 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych defeated Michael Russell 6-3, 7-5, 6-3, No. 10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain beat American qualifier Steve Johnson 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-2, No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka beat German qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 and No. 16 Kei Nishikori of Japan had a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 win over Romania's Victor Hanescu.

Also advancing were No. 22 Fernando Verdasco of Spain, No. 26 Jurgen Melzer of Austria and No. 32 Julien Benneteau of France, who ousted rising Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

607

Source:
Reuters
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Assam officials upset that WWII-era Stillwell Road won't be used in transnational highway linking four Asian nations.
Informal health centres are treating thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey, easing the pressure on local hospitals.
Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are keeping a close eye on local supporters of the hard-line Middle East group.
Wastewater ponds dot the landscape in US states that produce gas; environmentalists say they’re a growing threat.
China President Xi Jinping's Mongolia visit brings accords in the areas of culture, energy, mining and infrastructure.
join our mailing list