Novak Djokovic made a lightning-fast start to his bid for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title on Tuesday, when the Serbian cruised past Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena.

Playing his first match at Melbourne Park for two years, Djokovic maintained a high level throughout to claim a comfortable win despite an admirable effort from the World No. 75 Carballes Baena. The fourth seed converted five of nine break points to seal a two-hour, two-minute triumph and book a second-round meeting with Hugo Dellien or qualifier Enzo Couacaud.

“I really feel very happy that I’m back in Australia, back here on the court where I had the biggest success in my career,” said Djokovic, who has now won 22 consecutive matches on Rod Laver Arena since 2019. “This court is the most special court in my life, and I couldn’t ask for a better start to the tournament.

“I guess the more you win on a certain court, the more confident and comfortable you feel every next time you step on it. That’s probably one of the reasons. I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of matches on this court, particularly in the night sessions. If I had to choose one court and conditions, it would be night session on Rod Laver Arena, all night long.”

The win extended Djokovic’s winning streak on Australian soil to 35. Should the 35-year-old lift the trophy this fortnight, he will equal Rafael Nadal’s record tally of 22 Grand Slam crowns, while a 10th Melbourne triumph would also see Djokovic return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time since last June.

Playing with a strapped left hamstring after tweaking the muscle during his run to the title at the Adelaide International 1 two weeks ago, Djokovic was forced to battle through some early strife on serve at 2-2, 0/40 in the first set. He responded to that pressure in style, however, reeling off 12 points in a row before going on to clinch the opener, with his rock-solid defence nullifying Carballes Baena’s attempts to dictate rallies from the baseline.

Although the Spaniard continued to give a good account of himself, some sharp Djokovic returning sealed the only break of the second set as the Serbian showed no sign of being bothered by his hamstring. The 92-time tour-level titlist took his serene movement up another level in the third set, striking with power and accuracy through the court to take complete control and leaving his opponent with little chance to counter.

“I’m very, very pleased with the way I played in the third set,” said Djokovic, who hit 41 winners overall to Carballes Baena’s 14. “I didn’t give him too much chance to breathe from the back of the court, and I served very well. [The] second set was kind of going up and down, but credit to him for fighting. He’s a great guy, we train a lot [together] in Spain and it was his first match on Rod Laver so he deserves a big round of applause.”

Djokovic was delighted to have put on a show for onlooking members of his family, some of whom had not seen the Serbian play at Melbourne Park since clinching his maiden Grand Slam triumph as a 20-year-old.

“My parents and my brother are here after 15 years,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview. “They’ve were last here when I won in 2008, my first Slam, so hopefully they bring me luck once again.”


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