Australian Open: Novak Djokovic allays hamstring injury fears with straight sets win over Roberto Carballés Baena
Novak Djokovic has dismissed any concerns that the lingering hamstring injury that has hampered him since last week will affect his performance. Australian OpenThe world number five defeated Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in the opening round in Melbourne.
It was certainly a tough opening test for Djokovic, as world number 75 Carabales Baena proved a tough and determined opponent for the opening two sets.
However, Djokovic finally broke Carballes Baena’s resistance with a truly brilliant third set of tennis and achieved his quest for a record-extending 10th set. Australian Open Heading for the best possible start.
Djokovic received a warm welcome from the crowd in Melbourne, as he did during his winning run at the Adelaide warmup event last week, his first Australian Open appearance since the relegation defeat a year ago.
“Unbelievable atmosphere, thanks to everyone for staying so late,” Djokovic said in a post-match interview to cheers and applause. “Thank you for the kind welcome and welcome I could only dream of.
“I am very happy to be back in Australia and back here on the court where I have had the biggest success of my career. This court is the most special in my life.
“The more you win on a particular court, the more comfortable and confident you feel. That’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve been lucky to win so many matches on this court in the night session.
“If I had to choose one court and one condition, it would be the all-day night sessions at Rod Laver Arena.”
The victory was Djokovic’s 35th in a row in Australia and the signs were ominous for Carballes Baena in the opening exchanges.
With the score tied at 2-2 and the match only 19 minutes old, the effort difference between the two players was already evident.
At one end, Karbales Bena was breathing heavily, her soaked shirt already sticking to her. Djokovic, on the other hand, looked like he barely broke a sweat.
The Serbian was soon made to work hard, however, as Karbales Baena went 0-40 up in the fifth game to earn himself three break points.
Djokovic’s left thigh is heavily involved as he continues to manage the hamstring injury that forced him to withdraw from a practice match last week, and fans may have briefly wondered if it He was getting in the way.
But the 21-time Grand Slam champion quickly allayed those fears and broke five straight points to hold serve and then immediately held Carballes Baena to love.
It wasn’t just the Spaniard’s serve that Djokovic broke, but his composure as well, as the world No. 5 won 13 of the next 15 points to take a commanding 5-2 lead.
It was always going to be difficult for Carabales Baena to maintain that early level to keep pace with Djokovic and the nine-time Australian Open champion quickly took the first set 6-3.
However, huge credit must go to Carabales Baena for not letting the disappointment of the first set affect his morale, as the 29-year-old continued to play aggressive tennis and Djokovic actually made his first service game of the second. Made some great saves for set
With the score tied at 3-3, an epic 28-shot rally – which Djokovic won after chasing down a Carballes Baena drop shot – set the tone for what would be the deciding game of the second set.
It was a grueling five-minute slog with Djokovic eventually coming out on top to break serve for the first time in the set, before holding to love in the next game.
Another hold of Carballes Baena’s serve ensured that Djokovic would have to serve for the second set, but he once again enjoyed a commanding two-set lead.
The match was now over as a contest as Djokovic won the opening two games of the third set to love and then broke Carballes Baena for a 3-0 lead.
It was a truly absurd spell of tennis, during which Djokovic won 16 of 17 points as the Serbian turned up the heat and entered a zone that has made him completely unplayable at moments throughout his career.
Perhaps the scariest part of this final set for any of Djokovic’s potential Australian Open opponents watching was that the 35-year-old was still playing well within his range.
Djokovic closed out the final set without dropping a game to send a real statement of intent for the rest of the draw.
It was a tough end to the match for Carballes Baena, who had excelled in the opening two sets to make this opener a real contest.
If anyone doubted Djokovic’s status as the favorite for the Australian Open before this match, they no longer do.