x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Early first round net gains for Novak Djokovic at Australian Open

Usually a baseline player, Djokovic goes about experiementing in an easy win while Andy Murray recovers from first set lapse.

The world No 1 is essentially a baseline player.
The world No 1 is essentially a baseline player.

MELBOURNE // Novak Djokovic was having an easy time of it in his first round match at the Australian Open, so he decided to experiment by coming to the net.

Like pretty much anything he does on the tennis court these days, it was an unqualified success. He easily beat Paolo Lorenzi 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 on Tuesday to advance to the second round and continue his quest to join Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal by winning three straight Grand Slam singles titles.

"When you're 3, 4-love up, why not try some other things, something that is not characteristic for your game," said Djokovic, who usually does not stray far from the baseline.

"But I am definitely working on my net game, approaching the short balls as much as I can, and take my chances."

He took them well, winning 21 of 26 points he attempted at the net.

Djokovic started his Australian Open defence wearing a pair of red, white and blue shoes with images of his three major trophies on the sides and a Serbian flag on the heels.

"I think it was a learning process for me in the last couple of years. I just have more confidence that I'm playing on right now," he said. "I just believe that I can win, especially against the biggest rivals in the major events."

While Djokovic looks to extend his Grand Slam success, reigning US Open women's champion and Australian hope Sam Stosur was beaten in the following match, and a full and partisan house at Rod Laver Arena could do nothing to help.

The sixth-seeded Stosur was outplayed by Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (2), 6-3. The Romanian later told the crowd that "probably the whole country hates me now."

"I'm not sure if it's one of my biggest matches, but it feels like that now," said Cirstea, who had lost both her previous matches against Stosur.

Stosur saved three match points while serving to stay in the match, but finally lost it when her looping forehand drifted over the baseline. No Australian has won the national title since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

Second-ranked Petra Kvitova and No 4 Maria Sharapova also advanced. After surrendering her opening service game with a double-fault, Kvitova won 12 consecutive games in a 6-2, 6-0 win over Russia's Vera Dushevina.

Sharapova, a former Australian Open and Wimbledon champion, won the first eight games of a 6-0, 6-1 win over Gisela Dulko of Argentina in her first match since returning from a left ankle injury.

The 2008 champion needed just 58 minutes for the win, and the only game she lost was on her own serve.

Joining Djokovic in the second round of the men's draw is the player he beat last year in the final here, fourth-seeded Andy Murray, who had a first-set lapse before beating American Ryan Harrison 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Murray, who has lost in Grand Slam finals three times without taking a set, is attempting to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a major.

Andy Roddick easily defeated Robin Haase of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to also move into the second round. The 15th-seeded American broke Haase to go up 3-0 in the final set with a running passing shot down the line that left his opponent hitting his head with his racket. He broke Haase again to close out the match.

Serena Williams, a five-time Australian Open champion who lost to Stosur in the US Open final last September, was due to play her first-round match later against Tamira Paszek of Austria.