x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 August 2017

Djokovic brushes off Lukas Lacko in first match at Australian Open

Novak Djokovic topped the Slovak 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 on Monday, saying he was 'very encouraged' for his next match.

Novak Djokovic with play Argentine Leonardo Mayer in the second round at the Australian Open. Franck Robichon / EPA
Novak Djokovic with play Argentine Leonardo Mayer in the second round at the Australian Open. Franck Robichon / EPA

Second seed Novak Djokovic praised his understanding with new coach Boris Becker as he made a winning if scratchy start at the Australian Open on Monday.

The defending champion wore down Lukas Lacko to win his first official match under the former Grand Slam winning German Becker in straight sets.

The Serbian, bidding to win a fourth consecutive Australian title and fifth overall, had to work hard to subdue the 96th-ranked Slovak.

But after taking the second set in a tiebreaker, he swept to victory 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 in one hour 50 minutes and will face Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the next round.

Djokovic said while it was early into his player-coach relationship with Becker, the signs were good.

“He definitely has great observations on my game, on tennis in general,” he said.

“We do speak a lot about different things. We try to get to know each other as much as we can.

“The understanding is great in the beginning. I did not expect ourselves to understand each other so well right away in the second or third week that we working are with each other.”

With the tennis great courtside, Djokovic looked far from his best and made 30 unforced errors. But he interspersed them with some glorious stretched volleys for winners.

“I know that I haven’t played my best, especially in the second set,” Djokovic said.

“But, look, also credit to my opponent who was playing really nice tennis from the baseline.

“On the other hand I was a little bit too passive in some stages of the match and was trying to find the proper balance and footing on the court.

“It came at the right time in the tiebreak in the second and the whole third set was great. My service games, most of the games were won comfortably.

“That’s something that makes me obviously very encouraged for this tournament and for every next match.”

Becker has been brought in to improve Djokovic’s game after a disappointing 2013 by his own high standards and with his regular coach, Marian Vajda, keen for more family time.

Last year Djokovic won the Australian Open but lost to Rafael Nadal in the US Open final, then again in the semi-finals of the French Open, as well as bowing to Andy Murray in the Wimbledon decider.

“We both hope to get the right benefits and the right results right away here in Australia. We worked very hard during the last four weeks,” Djokovic said.

“Hopefully we can go far in this tournament. But it’s a long year and yes this tournament right now is our priority and our focus.

“Then we hope to maintain that consistency with a success and good cooperation throughout the whole year.”

Djokovic lost his service but broke the Slovak twice to take the opening set in 30 minutes, even though his backhand misfired as he made seven errors on that flank.

Lacko fought hard in the second set and conceded his first break point in the ninth game before the set went to a tiebreaker.

But Djokovic comfortably wrapped up the tiebreaker 7/2 to go two sets up and skated through the final set in just 23 minutes as Lacko’s level dropped and the six-time Grand Slam champion stepped up a gear.