Novak Djokovic’s “love affair” with the Australian Open continues to flourish after the world No.1 ignited his title defence with a 6-3 6-1 6-2 masterclass over Jeremy Chardy on Monday night.
The top seed, seeking an unprecedented ninth title at Melbourne Park, looked in ominous form to book a second-round match-up with American Frances Tiafoe.
In 13 previous encounters with Chardy, it was ‘Game, set, match Djokovic’ each time. Their first match was at Australian Open 2009 in straight sets, and it followed a familiar storyline on Rod Laver Arena.
“It’s an ongoing love affair between me and the Rod Laver Arena,” quipped the Serbian, with his 15th successive victory on the world-renowned court coming courtesy of 41 winners.
“Hopefully I can have many great matches this year with this type of performance. Obviously, I wanted to start of well, first match, night session. It’s very special to be back on one of the most special courts around the world. It’s my most successful court, every time I step on this court I re-live these memories.”
Harnessing those memories clearly worked for the reigning champion.
In just the second point of the match, Djokovic laser-beamed a forehand winner down the line, sending the statement ‘welcome to my world.’ The Serbian broke in the first game and immediately seized control.
Chardy remained in touch with punchy one-two combinations, but the world No.1 kept sprinkling in sublime points with acute volleys, rattling returns and clipped forehand passes.
After just 17 minutes of a quick-fire second set, Djokovic had already accelerated to 5-0 on the scoreboard with clinical precision, turning defence into attack with consummate ease. After recording just a single unforced error in the set, the reigning champion was soaring towards the finish line.
World No.66 Chardy had never defeated a top-ranked player from five previous attempts, and his chances evaporated rapidly after relinquishing serve at the start of the third set.
Djokovic built momentum with impressive singles wins over Alexander Zverev and Denis Shapovalov at the ATP Cup last week, but this was a dominant step up very few players could live with.
Break point at 3-1, Chardy clipped a delightful backhand drop shot, but Djokovic stormed to the net and sliced away the winner in a flash, along with the Frenchman’s hopes.
The world No.1 closed out his complete performance with an essence of excellence in just 91 minutes to saunter into the second round at Melbourne Park for the 15th straight year.
“It felt great, pretty much flawless match. Just overall I think every shot that I executed tonight was really good and on a high level. I’m very pleased with the way I opened up the Australian Open,” added the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
“You are expected to win most of the times as a top player and kind of ease your way through the first rounds, but, I don’t see it that way. Still have to do your job on the court. In the days like this where you feel very comfortable, you try to relax and do few more other things. Bu you can’t step away too much from your own comfort zone, so I was sticking to the game plan in a way.”
A warm applause greeted the 33-year-old, and Djokovic wanted to return his gratitude to the crowd.
“It makes my heart full to see the crowd so full in the stadium again. I’m really glad to see so many people,” said Djokovic with a grin.
“I really, really appreciate your support coming out tonight. Sometimes we’ve taken this for granted, but not tonight.
“I’m just glad we’re back in Australia, it’s a happy place for us, The Happy Slam.”
Next up, a first meeting against world No.64 Tiafoe.
“He definitely has a bright future,” Djokovic said of the American.
“He’s very aggressive, an all-round player, one of the quickest players on the tour. I look forward to the challenge. Let’s keep it going.”
Source: Alex Sharp