Defending champion and second seed Novak Djokovic passed a tough first-round assignment at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
The Serbian tennis ace opened his campaign on Rod Laver Arena with a 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory over world no.40 Fernando Verdasco in two hours and 20 minutes.
Novak stormed through the opening set in 31 minutes, breaking his rival in the second and fourth games.
The second set was a much closer affair. Verdasco went up a break twice, but the six-time Melbourne titlist fought back to force the tie-break, which he won 7-4.
Djokovic made two more breaks in the third set to progress at the first Grand Slam event of the season.
“I started really well. Great first set. Great third set, as well. Second set was a long set with a lot of unforced errors from both sides. It was a gamble, really,” said Novak. “I’m very pleased with the first round, considering I had one of the toughest first-round draws, definitely considering his form, how well he played in Doha. Just overall I’m feeling good about my performance.”
The 29-year-old Belgrade native won eight of the 10 net approaches, and 76 per cent of his first serve points, compared to 60 per cent for Verdasco.
Match statistics: aces (2-5), double faults (2-5), winners (24-27), unforced errors (34-56), total points won (115-85).
Novak goes on to face world no.117 Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan (5-0 H2H), who advanced with a 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 triumph over qualifier Ivan Dodig (CRO).
Djokovic is chasing a record seventh title at Melbourne Park to surpass the mark he shares with Roy Emerson.
Photo: Getty Images