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Djokovic profits from quick start in Melbourne

Six-times champion back in action after six months out

Image Credit: AP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic makes a return to United States’ Donald Young during their first round match at the Australian Open yesterday. Djokovic won 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 i in an hour and 51 minutes.
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Melbourne: Novak Djokovic might well want to boycott the Australian Open next year, but the mercurial Serb looked happy enough in his work on Day 2 of this year’s tournament when he dispatched the once promising American, Donald Young, in three quick sets in his favourite city outside Belgrade. Or is that Monte Carlo?

Djokovic, a six-time winner here and a resident of the tax-free principality, says he loves Melbourne, the tournament and Australians, although that notion would be stretched to breaking point if anything were to come of his surprising call to his fellow professionals last Friday to withhold their labour in 2019 unless they get a bigger slice of the revenue.

Current remuneration stands at $4m (Dh14.69 million) for the winner. The tournament director, Craig Tiley, has promised to double the pot to $100 million (Dh367 million) within six years. All numbers are relative.

Djokovic, meanwhile, took a mere hour and 51 minutes on a warm, pleasant Tuesday afternoon to add $60,000 to his career earnings of $109,805,403, winning 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in only his second visit to Margaret Court Arena in a total of 38 matches at the season’s opening Slam. There were flashes of the brilliance that has lifted him to 12 slam titles and his chances of adding another are very much alive at the place where he has had most success.

The fans want him back, responding loudly to his heart-thumping and love-cupping to the stands. Whether he engenders such love in the boardroom is another matter.

“It feels so great to be back here, there is no better place for me to start after six months of injury than here in Australia,” he said courtside. “I came in with the right emotion, grateful to have this opportunity. A month ago I did not know if I was ready. I started with the right intensity.”I’ve never faced this particular situation in my career. I was absent for one month, maximum. I never missed a grand slam. It had to come. Unfortunately this injury has been with me for a while and it escalated last year around Roland Garros and Wimbledon. It did allow me to reflect on my life. My family are not here, and I miss them.”

The former world No. 1 — seeded 14 because of his enforced inactivity since Wimbledon — did not play as if he were on overtime, racing to a 5-1 lead inside 20 minutes and serving out the first set three minutes later. All areas of his tennis, need it be said, were functioning so smoothly, it hardly seemed he’d been away.

His reworked service action — a more perpendicular and efficient backswing, cutting through a lower ball toss to ease the strain on his troubled elbow — worked well enough, as he gradually cranked it up to a respectable 122mph, with neither an ace nor a double fault. It was conservative, cagey stuff. However, as his occasional mentor, Andre Agassi, observed beforehand, “If the elbow holds up and he gets through two or three rounds, he’ll be hard to stop.”

Young was not the man to start that process. The 28-year-old American — whose compatriots have been collapsing like presidential promises — was boys’ champion here in 2005, and also at Wimbledon, but it seems his potential has dried up. The unforced errors mounted and, despite spirited resistance, he couldn’t significantly slow the Djokovic train, the second set slipping away from him in 38 minutes.

The third was intermittently competitive, but, despite a quite stunning stop-volley by Young to extend the fight in the ninth game — the longest of the match — and then saving five match points, Djokovic served it out without fuss.

On Hisense earlier, Stan Wawrinka looked in all sorts of trouble mid-match, and trailed 0-4 in the fourth, before getting his game back to beat Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6. He next plays the gloriously named American, Tennys Sandgren, who beat the Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 on Court No. 6.

— Guardian News & Media Ltd, 2018