MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic served up only flashes of his best tennis on yesterday’s opening day of the Australian Open but took a comfortable first step on the path he hopes will lead to an unprecedented hat-trick of titles at Melbourne Park in two weeks’ time. Perhaps keeping energy in reserve for the battles that lie ahead, the world number one’s workmanlike 6-2 6-4 7-5 victory over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu yesterday summed up a day where the year’s first grand slam failed to really fire.
“It was a good performance for a first round,” said the top seed, who will play American Ryan Harrison in the second round. “There are some few adjustments that I need to make and get a little bit sharper on the court. But it’s expected in the first match you’re still not a 100 percent on the court.”
While Djokovic only roused himself when necessary, Maria Sharapova was ruthless as she swept aside any fears about her fitness with a thumping 6-0 6-0 win over compatriot Olga Puchkova on Rod Laver Arena. American Venus Williams and China’s Li Na, both former losing finalists, also enjoyed emphatic wins to breeze into the second round, while in-form fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska extended her perfect start to the year to 10 matches.
Upsets are often the catalyst that jolt a tournament into life but Argentina’s Juan Monaco was the first seed to fall in the early evening and his 7-6 6-1 6-1 defeat was as much down to hand and leg injuries as Russian Andrey Kuznetsov.