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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Australian Open Day 1: Grigor Dimitrov schools Dennis Novak to reach second round

John Isner and Kevin Anderson big-name casualties on Day 1 of Australian Open men's draw

Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in action against Dennis Novak of Austria. Julian Smith / EPA
Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in action against Dennis Novak of Austria. Julian Smith / EPA

Grigor Dimitrov looked every inch the potential grand slam champion as he schooled qualifier Dennis Novak 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 to reach the second round of the Australian Open on Monday.

The third seed, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park last year, barely got out of first gear as he displayed his considerable range of skills to oust his Austrian opponent in just 98 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

The 26-year-old Bulgarian, who finished last season with the biggest win of his career at the ATP Tour finals, hit 21 winners and toyed with his outclassed opponent at times.

The world No 3 sealed victory on his second match point when Novak netted a backhand and will next face another qualifier in either American Mackenzie McDonald or Swede Elias Ymer.

"I just tried to be compact, focused, really use every opportunity I had and save some energy," Dimitrov said in a courtside interview.

Dimitrov's London triumph and his career high seeding have brought him to Melbourne Park as one of favourites to land the year's first grand slam.

Beaten in a five-set thriller by Rafael Nadal in the semis at last year's Australian Open, Dimitrov clearly believes he is embarking on another long campaign in Melbourne.

"It's always been a dream of mine," he said when asked about his grand slam ambitions.

"I've achieved a few things that I always wanted already but this is the next step.

"I'm not going to lie, I'm not going to try and be too modest, but it's match-by-match and the only thing I can do is give 100 per cent and build in every match that I have."

Dimitrov has flattered to deceive before of course, landing in Australia almost every year with a new reason, and often a new coach, to explain why this season would be the one where he would finally fulfil his incredible potential.

A reasonably good draw has left him with Nick Kyrgios and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as the main potential barriers to the quarter-finals but Dimitrov reiterated that he was not looking past his match against McDonald or Ymer.

"I've seen Ymer play a few of times, I've played him once on clay, but every match you play, you have to perform and never underestimate your opponent, simple as that," he added.

"I'm looking on my side of the net, that's all, I'm just excited, I'm enjoying the game, everything is good."

Former US Open champion Marin Cilic was taken to four sets and five match points before reaching the second round of the Australian Open on Monday.

The Croatian sixth seed looked set for a cruising straight sets victory before dropping the third set against Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil.

Pospisil made things interesting in a tense fourth set tiebreaker before Cilic finally prevailed 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5) on Hisense Arena.

It is the ninth time Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, has reached the second round in Melbourne as he tries to better his semi-final appearance in 2010 where he lost to Andy Murray.

Cilic is coming off an outstanding 2017 where he lost to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final and made the quarter-finals at Roland Garros along with climbing to a career-high ranking of four.

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Australia's Matthew Ebden celebrates beating John Isner of the United States in their first-round match at the Australian Open. Issei Kato / Reuters
Australia's Matthew Ebden celebrates beating John Isner of the United States in their first-round match at the Australian Open. Issei Kato / Reuters

John Isner was toppled by Australian Matthew Ebden to continue the American misery on the opening day of the Australian Open on Monday.

The 16th seed, playing in his 100th grand slam match, bowed out 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in just over two hours on Margaret Court Arena.

It was Isner's first defeat to Ebden in four meetings and follows the shock exits of Americans Venus Williams, US Open champion Sloane Stephens and last year's semi-finalist CoCo Vandeweghe in the women's draw.

It is the third time 78th-ranked Ebden has reached the second round at his home major and Isner was the first top-ranked 20 player he had beaten at a grand slam.

"It's unbelievable," Ebden said. "I've lost to John the last two times and he's so tough to beat but I got immense positivity from the crowd and I feel great and full of energy."

Ebden, the second-highest ranked Australian behind Nick Kyrgios, will face Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second round.

Britain's Kyle Edmund eliminated US Open finalist Kevin Anderson in his biggest win at a grand slam at the Australian Open on Monday.

The 49th-ranked Edmund, the only British man in the main draw after five-time finalist Andy Murray's injury withdrawal, toughed out a 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win in almost four hours.

It reversed his loss to the 11th seeded Anderson over five sets in the third round at last year's French Open.

Edmund's previous best result at a slam was his defeat of No 15 Richard Gasquet in the first round at the 2016 US Open.

"Really good result for me. It was great to win at the end like that," he said.

"So many positive reasons. Just getting through a tough match like that. Also a quality player. Had a good year last year, started the year this year really well.

"My first overall thought - personal satisfaction, the hours you put in, training, so many things like that. Those type of results make it."

Anderson is one of the biggest servers on the ATP Tour and cranked up a total of 35 aces with a 67 per cent first serve, yet Edmund broke him four times.

"Kevin just serves himself out of trouble so much. Very difficult to read it," Edmund said.

"So when you get a racquet on the ball, it really has to go in the court. I thought I did a pretty good job."

It is only the second time he has reached the second round in Melbourne, while South African Anderson, who lost the 2017 Flushing Meadows final to Rafael Nadal, had made the round of 16 in Australia three times.

The victory set Edmund up with an encounter with Uzbek journeyman Denis Istomin.

"You know what you're going to get with him. He's going to bring out a level that's going to be tough to beat because he's that solid player," Edmund said.

US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno-Busta overcame Australian Jason Kubler in four tough sets in his first round match at the Australian Open.

The Spanish 10th seed finished strongly after wild card Kubler had taken the second set to win 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in three-and-a-half hours.

Carreno-Busta, who won the lead-in Kooyong Classic exhibition event last week, will face either French veteran Gille Simon or Romanian Marius Copil in the second round.

The Spaniard broke Kubler's serve nine times and won more of the points when rallies went nine shots or more.

Carreno-Busta has not gone beyond the third round at the Australian Open but last year reached the last four at the US Open where he was beaten by Kevin Anderson.