Tennis

Novak Djokovic survives Dino Prizmic test in Melbourne opener

Reuters

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Novak Djokovic survives Dino Prizmic test in Melbourne opener

OWN LEAGUE. Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his first round match against Croatia's Dino Prizmic REUTERS/Edgar Su

REUTERS

Novak Djokovic's bid for an 11th Australian Open title gets off to a challenging start, as tennis' No. 1 player digs deep to escape world No. 178 teenager Dino Prizmic

Novak Djokovic was dragged into a dogfight by talented teenager Dino Prizmic and had to dig deep to open his Australian Open title defense with a 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 victory in the first round on Sunday, January 14.

The Serbian, who played his first Australian Open a few months before the Croatian qualifier was born in August 2005, initially looked fully in control of the contest on the Rod Laver Arena court where he has won 10 of his 24 Grand Slam titles.

Prizmic had already shown glimpses of the weapons he possesses and broke the top seed with a brilliant crosscourt winner early in the second set, forcing Djokovic to raise his game to break straight back.

The 18-year-old world No. 178, who needed a medical timeout to get some strapping on his thigh early in the match, was a man transformed, however, and kept up his level to even up the contest in the tiebreak with his third set point.

That merely set the tone for an enthralling third set in which 36-year-old Djokovic was put under intense pressure by his athletic opponent, making 20 unforced errors and facing six break points.

Djokovic broke Prizmic at the start but the teenager kept ripping huge forehands and stayed with the world No. 1 in several rallies to put the match back on serve before breaking again for a 3-2 lead after a 15-minute battle of a game.

It had been six years and 28 matches since Djokovic last lost a match at the Australian Open and he was not going to put that record at risk easily.

He regrouped, changed his shirt and won the next four games to take the set, pumping his fist and letting out a huge roar in a tribute to the problems Prizmic had caused him.

More than three hours of playing with one of the best players of all time started to take its toll on Prizmic and Djokovic drove home his advantage to take his 90th win at the Australian Open in just over four hours.

The next challenge to Djokovic’s bid for a record 25th Grand Slam singles title will come from one of two Australians, Alexei Popyrin or Marc Polmans. – Rappler.com

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