World No. 2 Novak Djokovic will begin his quest for a fourth consecutive Australian Open crown when he meets world No. 90 Lukas Lacko in the first night session on Monday. The defending champion has won 21 consecutive matches in Melbourne and will be looking to extend that streak when he meets Lacko for the first time on the professional tour.
Djokovic has stayed away from pre-Grand Slam warm-up tournaments, unlike his elite counterparts Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Instead, the six-time Grand Slam champion chose to arrive early in Melbourne and begin training and adjusting to the court and conditions. Prior to that, he took part in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, where he defeated both David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win the title in the exhibition event.
The former world No. 1 appears to be in top form ahead of the season-opening Grand Slam event and it will be interesting to see the impact his new coach, Boris Becker, has on his game. Djokovic has expressed his desire to improve on certain elements of his game and believes the German star is just the man to get the job done.
“I sincerely hope that he can bring that mental edge because he recognizes the situations that a top player is facing during the grand slams and the pressures and expectations and the clutch moments. That’s what we hope to work on and improve the most and a couple of other elements in my game, like my serve.”
The Serb has certainly been gifted with a relatively easy draw, with the biggest concerns in his half of the draw being potential clashes with either Tomas Berdych or David Ferrer.
Djokovic holds four Australian Open titles, three of which he won in consecutive fashion. Only Roger Federer and Andre Agassi share that record in the Open Era as Australian legend Roy Emerson earned his sixth championship in Melbourne in 1967.
Lacko began his season in Chennai, where he lost to Israel’s Dudi Sela in the opening round. The following week, he arrived in Auckland, where he strolled through the qualifying rounds, earned a main draw win over Jose Statham before losing to eventual champion John Isner. The No. 1 Slovak finished in Top 100 for 4th time in 5 years in 2013 and reached back-to-back quarter-finals last year in Doha, Auckland and later in Tokyo.
Last year, Lacko reached the second round in Melbourne, where he lost to Janko Tipsarevic. It was his strongest Grand Slam showing that season.
While Lacko is certainly a talented competitor, he will be no match for Djokovic, who will have had enough practice on Rod Laver arena to be fully prepared for the upcoming draw. The world no. 2 will maintain control in his own service games and will aim to pressure the Slovak in his own, before eventually cruising into the second round with a straight sets victory.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in Straight Sets