After much speculation ensued over the past week regarding world No. 1 and former champion Novak Djokovic’s preparedness for the Australian Open following his illness earlier in the month, the Serb silenced all doubters when he eased into the second round of the Australian Open. Djokovic will next meet Andrey Kuznetsov, whom he has never encountered previously, to determine who will advance to the next stage of the event.
The top seed cruised into the second round with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Aljaz Bedene, but only after a surprisingly slow start to the match. The Serb struck eight aces, won 83% of his first service points and 29 winners to close out the match in just over 90 minutes of court time. He did, however, hit a astonishing amount of unforced errors (27), which may indicate that he is yet to find his form.
“Australian Open has been very dear to me. My most successful Grand Slam. I’ve been playing some of my best tennis throughout career on these courts. Trying to soak up every joyful moment on the court. Obviously the start was a bit slower performance, weaker performance, from my side. He had a couple of breakpoints. The match could have gone a different way in the first set. Never played him. Watched him only once. He did surprise me. I had a difficult time to read his serve.”
Djokovic added that he feels he has recovered from the illness that plagued him earlier in the month.
“It hasn’t been an ideal couple of weeks in terms of health and preparation. But, you know, I fighted my way through. Now it’s behind me. I’m only looking forward. I think I did well in terms of responding to the slow start today, feeling a little bit rusty on the court. So hopefully the next one will be even better.”
Djokovic will next come up against Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov, who needed four sets to oust Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas. He struck 8 aces, won 74% of his first service points and hit 8 winners to close out the match 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).
This marks the first time that these two competitors cross paths on the professional tour and will likely be another straightforward encounter for Djokovic, who appears to have shaken off the flu.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in Straight Sets