Djokovic imperious as Covid-delayed Australian Open finally underway | Daily News

Djokovic imperious as Covid-delayed Australian Open finally underway

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic hits a return against France’s Jeremy Chardy during their men’s singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 8. AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic hits a return against France’s Jeremy Chardy during their men’s singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 8. AFP

Melbourne, Monday: Novak Djokovic served a reminder of why he’s the greatest Australian Open champion in history as he demolished France’s Jeremy Chardy in straight sets in round one on Monday.

The eight-time winner’s 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 win showed that normal service had resumed at Rod Laver Arena after the year’s first Grand Slam was delayed three weeks over the coronavirus.

Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep also enjoyed convincing wins as the tournament finally got underway in front of limited crowds after a troubled build-up.

“It feels great, so great to see people back in the stadium,” Djokovic said. “This is the most I’ve seen on a tennis court in 12 months.”

Form and fitness are highly unpredictable at the Australian Open after the coronavirus wiped out five months of last season and badly disrupted preparations for the first Grand Slam of 2021.

But Djokovic left little doubt about his readiness to pursue a record-extending ninth title in Melbourne, breaking in the first game and completing the victory in 91 minutes.

The Australian Open was postponed to allow players to quarantine and play warm-up events, which were suspended for a day last week after a coronavirus case at a tournament hotel.

After the tortuous build-up, third seed Osaka struck the first serve on the centre court against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and strode just 68 minutes later as a 6-1, 6-2 winner.

“I was really nervous coming into this match. I just wanted to play well,” Osaka told a smattering of spectators on the socially-distanced court. AFP